The most wonderful (or terrifying) time of the year is here once again, as we glance at the calendar and see Feb. 14 staring back at us. Maybe you are a master of love's favorite day, or maybe you read these words and start to panic because you have done zilch to prepare for this make or-break romantic Armageddon.

Either way, we put our cupid-struck hearts together as a staff to come up with 10 ideas for Valentine's Day.

We kept in mind the wide spectrum of social interaction. We have ideas for the advance d Casanovas, adventures for those of us with a little darker heart an d ideas for a little self-love on what can be an isolating day.

Enjoy as our staff shows you some love.

1. 365 Projectuse a journal to write a daily thought about a loved one. Get creative. From poems to letters, the choice is yours. you won't be able to give it as a gift this Valentine's day, but start your effort now and make next year's act of kindness super awesome. Then, 365 days from now, you can present that special someone with a collection of thoughts from the heart. This can also work for anniversaries and birthdays.

- Z Long

2. Get extra cheesydeliver a lovely slice of cheesy goodness from a custom heart shaped pizza this Valentine's day. Call up your favorite pizza joint before the big day to make sure they have this lovely creation.

- Z Long

3. Get inked!Can you say couples tattoos? The Council bluffs Tattoo art Convention conveniently starts on Valentine's day and runs through sunday at the Mid-america Center. Maybe a nice heart with your initials wrapped in vines, or go subtle with your lover's name as part of a face tattoo. (Or maybe not.) Cruise over to villainarts.com to see the artists and make a reservation.

— Z Long

4. Valentine's Day candy bottlesyour Valentine will love this fun gift full of their favorite kinds of candy.

WHAT YOU NEED

six recycled glass soda (or beer) bottles with twist-off caps

Drink carrier (to hold six bottles)

One can of white (or red or pink) spray paint

Washi tape in Valentine's day colors

Construction paper

Glue

Permanent markers (in various Valentine's day-related colors)

Valentine candies

WHAT YOU DO

1. spray paint your drink carrier in a well-ventilated room (or outside). set aside to dry.

2. use the washi tape on the glass bottles to create labels. With the permanent marker, write a sweet message or the type of candy inside.

3. Trace the bottle caps onto the construction paper. draw a heart inside the circle, cut it out and glue it to the top of the bottle cap.

4. Fill the bottles with your sweetie's favorite candy.

5. Once the drink carrier is dry, you can use the washi tape to decorate it.

6. Put the bottles in the drink carrier and — voila! — you've got a super fun and unique gift — a six-pack of treats — to give to the special person in your life.

— Ashlee Coffey

5. Riesens whyWe're sure there are lots of reasons why you love your significant other. Let them know with this fun, easy and delicious craft. It's a pretty simple project to complete. all you need is a bag of riesen chocolate caramel candies, paper, scissors, a pen and some tape. Oh, and a nice container to hold the candies when you're done. using small strips of paper, write down all the reasons you love your S.O. (riesen No. 1: you make me laugh, etc.) Wrap each reason around a piece of candy and tape it in place. If you're feeling extra fancy, you can open the candies, wrap the paper around the candy and put the wrapper back so it's a big surprise. each time they open a candy, they'll be reminded of all the reasons you love them.

- Ashlee Coffey

6. Say things with your pancakes

Making a special Valentine's day breakfast is a great way to start the day. your family will light up at the sight of pancakes with a heartfelt message. serving them with strawberry purée and whipped cream adds a special flair. after trying these pancakes, you may never eat them with syrup again.

WHAT YOU NEED

Pancake mix

Canned whipped cream

Strawberry purée (recipe follows)

Squeeze bottle

FOR THE PURÉE

20-ounce bag of frozen unsweetened strawberries, or 20 ounces of fresh strawberries

¼ cup sugar

Freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)

WHAT YOU DO

1. Mix pancake batter in a bowl according to package directions. Let batter sit a minute or two, then transfer to a squeeze bottle.

2. heat griddle to 375 F and lightly oil.

3. use squeeze bottle filled with batter to spell out a message for your Valentine. The trick is to write backward so that after you flip the letters, the words read correctly.

4. Pour strawberry purée onto plate and top with pancakes. Garnish with whipped cream. Source: www.thelilypadcottage.com

STRAWBERRY PURÉE

1. Place the unsweetened frozen strawberries in a large bowl and thaw. This may take a few hours.

2. Once thawed, put the strawberries and their juice in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process the berries until they are puréed.

3. Pour the purée into a 2-cup measuring cup. you should have about 1¼ cups of purée. add¼ cup sugar and stir until dissolved.

4. Taste and add sugar, if needed. you can also add a little lemon juice to taste.

5. store covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. The sauce can also be frozen. Source: joyofbaking.com

— Kiley Cruse

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