Valentine’s Day in a Chocolate Nutshell

How did Valentine’s Day become connected to February 14th?

Several resources point to ancient church leaders replacing the Roman festival that celebrated spring and fertility with the feast day to remember the martyrdom of one or possibly two men named Valetinus. People would travel from all over to the churches holding their bones looking for miracles. That doesn’t sound very romantic.

A vintage postcard about ancient times: Have you picked out your Cupid yet?

The latest theory on what put the heart into the holiday brings us to the 14th century author Geoffrey Chaucer. He linked the feast day of St. Valentinus on February 14 with when the birds get all frisky and start mating. The Nobility embraced the notion of a special date for love expression and began sending romantic verses of love during February.

The first valentine was in 1415. A duke was imprisoned in the Tower of London and sent a note to his wife calling her his Valentine.

The next popular author to link the date with love was Shakespeare. This helped lock down Valentine’s Day as February 14th in England for sending “valentines”.

By the 1800s commercially printed cards were becoming popular in replacing handmade ones. Those early cards became super fancy with factory workers hand painting them. Soon ribbon and lace would be added. Not all of them were sweet…search on line for the sassy and mocking “Vinegar Valentines”.

The tradition of exchanging Valentine’s Day cards in the U.S. didn’t become widely popular till after the Civil War. Thanks to a new company that would become Hallmark, a switch was made from postcard to cards inside envelopes to allow for more private messages.

While cleaning out a family member’s home, we found a box full of saved Valentine’s Day cards. She had saved every card her husband gave her, from their dating times during WWII till when he passed away. He was a gruff and rough working man, yet the cards he picked out where full of romance and sweetness. No wonder she cherished them. In return, she would make him home made heart shape ravioli every Valentine’s Day.

I have to say, I am a huge fan of those early sappy cards and homemade ones. Now we can send all sorts of cards over different platforms/mediums. Will those, or can they even be saved and cherished for many years?

What about the common symbols of Valentines?

The Heart: Going back to ancient days, the heart was believed to be the seat of emotion or of the soul. Ancient warriors even ate the hearts of their conquered enemies if they were seen as strong opponents.

Cupid: This baby boy was a Roman god of love, the son of Venus the goddess of love and beauty. Remember the Roman connection above?

Birds: Lovebirds mate for life. Also the link between coming of spring in February and Chaucer’s sexy birds.

Roses: Red roses are symbols of passion. Careful, if you give yellow ones, that means you only want to be friends.

Chocolate: All through history it was thought to increase passion.

Well there you go, a quickie on Valentine’s Day!

Wishing you a sweet  and fun day.


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The 4th Grade Book Report Re-visited

Recently I discovered my mother had saved a folder of book reports I completed when I was in the 4th Grade. What am I going to do? I’m going to read those books again and see if my opinion has changed. Would I have outgrown what I thought was entertaining?

4th Grade was a weird year for me. I don’t remember much. I can’t even conjure up the teacher in my mind, which is odd, seeing I can rattle off every other teacher’s name, from the one who use to lock me in the coat closet for being disruptive, to the teacher who let me tell wild stories at “Show and Tell”, to the teacher who sent me out to do puppet shows for younger kids because I probably exhausted her.

Hmm, seems to be a theme growing.

4th Grade must have been a calm year. So calm I forgot it. I did learn from former classmates our teacher was nice.

Here we go


(I am going to use the same format my 4th Grade Teacher gave us to fill out.)

Title: Henry and the Clubhouse

Author: Beverly Cleary

(I didn’t have access to the original book I might have read. Hopefully the one I bought is close to the same version)

First Observation: I was happy to find out I actually read the book in 4th grade. I don’t remember reading any fiction books as a kid. I could say someone else read it and told me about it, but the way I expressed myself, that says I read it. Maybe I was bribed.

Why didn’t I want to read fun stories? It was tough for me as a dyslexic kid with ADHD to put that much effort into sitting down and reading.

Write three good sentences telling about the book:

I wrote: “Henry was the youngest paperboy. He started to build a clubhouse too. He had troubles and problems all thought the book. The book was very funny”…”When Beezus and Ramona get into action which causes Henry’s trouble.”  Seems my teacher had issue with those sentences, she circled “telling about” in red pen. Hey, I was just warming up!

Second Observation: The funny parts my 4th Grader self pointed out, were still funny. My adult self would want to add the main character riding downtown in a bathtub to that list.

I learned the story has not been updated like they have done to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, even though the cover has. I am not sure kids today could relate to his being a paperboy and what is involved, or the fact he had to search all over for a phone, etc. Adult me found those elements nostalgic and the life lessons of hard work and tolerance were good to see.

Tell about one interesting part of the book:

Third Observation: The life lessons the author was trying to point out, went right over my 4th grade head. Stuffed owls scaring dogs and dogfights seemed more interesting to me back then.

Tell where you found the book, if you liked or disliked the book, and why you liked or disliked the book:

Fourth Observation: WHOA, slow down there Teacher! That is a three part question! How did my brain handle that?

I wrote: “I like the parts when it was around Halloween. Mrs Peobody’s dog Ranger was in the fight with Ribsy”  (Ribsy is Henry’s dog) “When Henry came to the door Ranger ran under the chair and wouldn’t come out. He was scared of the stuffed owl Henry was carring. At last he came out.”…and this is my favorite line, bringing it all home…“Mrs. Peabody bought a paper from Henry.”  Now doesn’t that just want you to read it to find out why he had a stuffed owl and she bought a paper from a paperboy? I thought so back then.

I said I found the book in the library. I don’t remember going to the school’s library. Did it have one? Now I have to find out. (sending message to a classmate who actually read books in school-she said yes.)

Ouch on the red pen circling the word their..or as I normally like to write it, thier. Hey, I wrote it correctly this time. I would see a lot of red pen in my school years. Two vowels together was always a popular tripping point for me. I could never “see” how they worked even after someone sang me that rule about “eyes after eees except after seas…” Hmm, why didn’t she red pen all the other misspellings? Must have been the compelling story I was weaving.

Back to the if I liked it: “Some parts were funny.” “There were not many sad parts.” There you have it. I liked upbeat stories!

Would I recommend this book to a child? Yes, for sure.



Title: Skip (I found the vintage book on-line)

Author: Aileen Fisher

Write three good sentences telling about the book:

I wrote: “The book is about a girl named Krissy and a dog named Skip. The story tells the troubles that Krissy had to get her dad to now that Skip was a good dog even if he is blind. Krissy had trouble keeping the secret.”

First Observation: I seem to be getting better at writing them.

Second Observation: Now I know why in the first book report I added “There were not many sad parts”. This book is full of suspense and should have been titled: “What animal on the farm is Dad going to kill next?”

Tell about one interesting part of the book:

When I saw the author of this book I did get excited. She is one of my favorite poets. Her poems are full of her love of nature and are soft and sweet. That comes through in this book when she describes going up into the hayloft (the mow): “The mow smelled good-dry and fragrant, as if a piece of summer had been hidden there away from the snow and cold.” Having played in haylofts as a kid, the author’s description did bring back memories. And look, I did mention the mow in this section of my report, so it made a good impression on me back then, too.

“I like the part when Krissy ordered Skip to come down from the mow. Skip tried to come down he missed the step and fell to the ground. Luckily Krissy grabbed skip in time and held him on the third step.  That is when she found out Skip was blind.”

Tell where you found the book, if you liked or disliked the book, and why you liked or disliked the book:

“I found this book at the school library.” Guess I did go there a few times!

“I liked this book because Krissy always feels bad for Skip. She was the only one that was helpful to Skip. There were many places that was sad and happy.”

My 4th Grade self seemed to like this book. My guess because it was relatable.

Third Observation: As for the whole storyline, sweet is not the author’s main direction. Would the events talked about be shocking to a kid of my generation, or a kid who grew up on a farm? No. The father character could have easily been mine. My Dad started out in life as a poor farm boy who understood animals had their place which meant they either fed the family or worked on the farm. My Dad had no issue with the circle of life and I suppose I didn’t either. That is why in my report I focused on the relationship between the farm dog Skip who went blind and the main character who loved him and tried to make him look useful to her father so he wouldn’t get rid of him.

Would I recommend this book? Looking at the story with a present day child in mind, no way would I put this on the shelf of a library. (I also would not let kids of today read “Where the Red Fern Grows” for the same reasons.)

I like how the story shows kids being personally responsible for chores, animals, siblings, to their parents, and keeping the family afloat. I’m scared those values are slipping away. The first book I posted about also did that, but not in such a harsh way.

According to my 4th Grade self, it does have a happy ending-if you can get there!

What fun it has been reading these old book reports. Or should I call them book reviews, because that is really what they are. As we all shelter in place these days, go ahead and grab a book from your childhood and read it for the pure simple joy of it. The words won’t be difficult, the pages will fly by, the fun will be silly, and you will find yourself relaxing.

Until next time, take care and stay safe!


This article is copyright © Atwood/N.A.M. 2020. All content and images are copyrighted unless otherwise noted. Please do not use in any form without request of author. Links to our articles, short quotes with credit, and associated links are allowed.

For more childhood book memories, please check out my previous article on “Nancy Drew: Then and Now” , and “Wonder Woman: Then and Now”.

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