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Thursday, 15 December 2011

Count down to Christmas - Cookie Exchange and Christmas Gifts

It is the count down to Christmas, we are just a few days away :) Have you been busy planing and organising? If not, get on with it, take the time to plan a celebration. Gather up your family and friends and have a jolly good time. It is after all The Festive Season!

The festive season is beautiful. Trees have been propped, homes decorated, menus decided, invitations sent, and gift wish-lists have been written. All ready to celebrate. This time of year is yet another occasion to gather and celebrate family, friendships and joy. It is another occasion to celebrate life. With the end of the year approaching, we can now reflect on a year about to pass, and celebrate the coming of a new one. Why not? Take joy in your health, children, old and new friendships, and the journey that is your life. Put all your worries aside, and change the world in January! Right now, make this time about you, and your family. Have a good time.

One good place to start is to throw a cookie exchange get-together. A beautiful tradition that seems to have taken the back seat in the past few years. Cookie exchange gatherings are really fun and will be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. A cookie exchange gathering is when you invite your friends and their children over, and ask each guest to bring with them a dozen cookies. All cookies - the ones you make and those brought by guests - will be placed on the table and each guest will bring an empty cookie basket that they will fill with their choice of the different cookies on display. Traditionally, each guest will bring cookies that they have baked at home, and will print out recipe cards, to be handed out to guests. This is awesome, as not only will each guest get to take some cookies home, but they will also learn how the cookies were made should they want to bake some themselves!!

During the gathering, you can entertain children with games and sing along some festive songs. You can even have performances, and award gifts for best performers. Then the kids can play, and you can catch up with your friends. These gatherings are excellent for people to meet and get to know each other, so don't feel compelled to invite only the ones who already know each other. Delicious cookies, children entertained, catching up with friends, gathering different cookie recipes, and taking cookie varieties home for your own cookie display: wouldn't you want to join in?

Cookie baskets can go a long way. 
I was with a friend of mine the other day and we were talking about Christmas gifts. She was saying that it was becoming harder every year to decide which gifts to give, especially when it comes to generic gifts like those given to children's friends at school, work colleagues and so on... When it comes to generic gifts, I find that a cookie basket goes a long way! Giving colleagues and children's friends baskets filled with cookies along with a festive card is a very pretty and thoughtful gift. This is one gift that is always received with much admiration. I even make some to give as party favours on Christmas Eve. Place some under the tree for those who come along with friends and haven't been counted on the guest list. This way no one is left without a gift, and you won't have that awkward moment for leaving someone out!

Making Cookie baskets can be a little time consuming and tiring if you have to make it all by yourself. But here is how it can be made easier. It is a tradition at my home, that first week of December is cookie baking week. I bake lots of cookies with my children, and invite their friends for cookie decoration play dates. I prepare Royal Icing, tint batches in different colours, place them all in piping bags ready for use. I place little confections and edible decorations in colourful plates, and tell them to make the most beautiful cookies they have ever seen. The activity is fun, and the children enjoy it tremendously. They can each take a few cookies home, and you will still have lots of cookies to pack into small baskets. After the art work has dried, place cookies (as many as you like) in baskets or little boxes, then wrap each baskets with a nylon sheet and tie with a nice ribbon. Stick a little card with a festive message on each basket and there you will have delicious cookie baskets ready to be gifted,or placed under the tree...etc.

The festive season is all about joy and family. These are little things that we can do that are fun and help in creating that festive feel. Don't stress and don't forget what it is all about. The simple joys of life are the pure essence of happiness. The little things we do, and make together with our kids, family and friends are the very things that become joyful memories. The very stories your children will tell theirs, and the very things they will do in their homes. After all that is all I want for my children, to be able to look back and feel joy, to grow up knowing it was fun, joyful and that they have lots of warm memories of home as they go on with their lives. Don't we all?

If you would like to host a cookie exchange gathering, or if you would like to bake some cookies for cookie baskets here are some useful links for you:
How I make Gingerbread Cookies
Cardamom Sugar Cookies
Royal Icing
Dima's 10 Cookie Baking Tips
I have also written an article for DubaiKidz, which should be published today or tomorrow about simple kitchen fun. It includes my Christmas Sugar Cookies recipe, along with some tips for baking with kids in the festive season, make sure not miss it :)

Some pictures from the making of my cookie baskets

With this I conclude the Festive Season Cookie Series, with the recipes, tips and inspirations I hope I was able to assist you in your cookie baking and able to convince you to give it a try, because it is such a joy baking and decorating cookies.

Thank you for reading this post, hope you have enjoyed it.  Do show me some love and leave me a comment before you go:)

Happy Holidays,
Enjoy Baking