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Chocolate ‘hottest’ Valentine’s Day item

If I were a betting man, I would place my money on hearts, roses and chocolate for the upcoming weekend. Their popularity always gets a boost as we get closer to Valentine’s Day. These traditional ways of expressing our love never seem to disappoint. Who can go wrong with chocolate any time of the year?

This day we set aside to honor love allows crafters the perfect opportunity to express their creativity.

Just mentioning Feb. 14 conjures up swirls of red, pink and white in my mind. It is definitely one of my favorite times of year to heat up the old glue gun, and you should do the same.

Back in my grade school days long before there were glue guns, thick white paste had to offer the bond we needed to construct our valentines. I can still remember those plastic jars of school paste.

The lid held a “spatula” of sorts to retrieve the thick, white glue. It was rumored that it was made of horse’s hooves, so I always used mine with caution, promptly washing my hands when I was finished.

Once you attached the pieces of paper together, it took days for the paste to completely dry. It always bothered me that it left a raised up hump and a discolored stain where it had been applied.

I would spend hours cutting red and pink heart shapes out of construction paper to give to my classmates. No matter how hard I tried, I could never just leave mine plain. I had to embellish them.

Our class even created special cardboard mailboxes to sit on our desks to hold our valentines on the special day of love.

Someone’s mom always brought in “goodies” on Valentine’s Day. These treats usually came in the shape of iced cookies or cupcakes piled high with pink icing to share with the class. My personal favorite was the time my mother and I made chocolate fudge, placed a few pieces in small bits of plastic wrap and tied each one off with a red or pink bow.

There we go with that chocolate again.

Fast forward many years and you will still find me crafting and baking things for Valentine’s Day. I don’t use that thick paste anymore. I have actually graduated to a “big boy” hot glue gun, but the other day I wish I still had my thick school paste instead. Allow me to elaborate.

One of my dear friends, Jo Ann, enlisted my help to make a valentine wreath. I had created several for myself the year before and she wanted to make one. It is a heart-shaped wreath and involves all three of the Valentine’s Day staples — hearts, roses and chocolate. I know you must be wondering how I incorporate chocolate onto a wreath. Well, to be completely honest with you, the chocolate was faux.

Having this unexplained fixation with chocolate, many years ago I devised a way to make hot glue look like real chocolate.

I melt a whole bunch of glue sticks in an old electric skillet and use a wooden paddle to apply the molten hot glue to a Styrofoam shape.

Sometimes I create chocolate cakes using round Styrofoam discs. Other times, I cut Styrofoam into small squares to resemble brownies and fudge. I know a lot of you are thinking about now that this is weird, but these chocolate props are beautiful on platters and cake stands in your kitchen or on your dining room buffet. It appears you always have something sweet and yummy to eat when, in reality, what you have is totally fat and sugar free!

Jo Ann and I were “icing” a large heart-shaped piece of Styrofoam to resemble a big chocolate heart. It is amazing! The glue even “runs” and “drips” like real chocolate.

When the glue is completely dry, all you have to do is spray paint it a chocolate brown and voilá!

You have faux chocolate that will make your mouth water. You then adorn your “chocolate” heart with ribbons and roses and you have a gorgeous heart-shaped wreath to hang on your door.

Everything was going like clockwork until I accidentally coated my middle finger with chocolate by dipping IT into the glue filled skillet.

I screamed as I jerked it back and threw whatever I was trying to attach to the wreath. Jo Ann screamed as well. Just think, I used to be scared of the thick school paste being made of animal byproducts. I should have been more worried about the skillet full of hot glue. At least I realized that I still have good reflexes.

Almost two weeks later as I am typing this column, I still have a burned place on my finger you wouldn’t believe. However, it did not in any way stop us from finishing our creation.

After all, the wreath had to get on her front door. Valentine’s Day was right around the corner.

Sometimes creating symbols of love can hurt — much like real love. But, when everything is said and done, it really is all worth it in the end.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Ÿ Check out Mark’s Web Site. Visit www.markballard.com for current projects, recipes and lots of other fun stuff.

Ÿ The Mark Ballard Show is on Cox Channel 15. Check local listings for times.

ŸMark’s on www.macon.cm 24 hours a day. Current and archived videos, columns and articles are featured.

Mark Allen Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA; fax them to (478)474-4390 or call (478) 757-6877.

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