bear

Do you feel like crawling up in a dark cave, covering your head, and hibernating like a smoky black bear this holiday season?

Have mercy!  Between the Retail sector shoving pre-Halloween Christmas ads down our throat, and the “Happy to Make You Sad” main-stream-media broadcasting from their Doomsday Soapboxes about the economy, something gets a little lost, doesn’t it?

We have the neatest tradition at work that I’d like to share.  It’s my Virtual Christmas Ornament to You from Me this season, and I hope you find it to be a little nugget that you’ll share with others, who’ll in turn share it with others, and then maybe in our own little way, we can shut out all the noise from those nasty folks I mentioned above and get back to what really counts this time of year – Sharing.

Hang on here – I know we’re all sophisticated, cosmopolitan and worldy people (or so we thnk) who barely have time between work and family obligations to take a free breath, but stay with me please.  I can assure you this little exercise brings us all together on a level playing field, and kinda separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to Sharing.

The Cookie Swap

swap

(stop laughing, I’m serious)

The announcement goes out before Thanksgiving.  A little email with a few seasonal cliparts and a reminder of the date, time and location.  Since we use Outlook at work – it gets sent as an appointment – and everyone accepts and puts it in their calendar.

invite

Regular reminders are posted once a week, and updates provided on the number of people accepting. 

On Meeting Day, we offer up two types of coffee and all the accoutrements, a hot chocolate, and hot water for tea (with assorted tea bags – this year I think we’re going with Earl Grey).

Everyone assembles around the conference room table and yes, both genders participate – it’s amazing! Cookies are lined up in the center of the table.  Everyone samples, and everyone brings a bag, box or some other contained to take some home for their holiday celebrations. 

But the centerpiece aren’t the cookies – Oh No!  The centerpiece of this celebration is the “story”.  Everyone is required to bring in copies of their recipe, or if they don’t “recipe”, they are required to bring in directions to where they purchased the cookies (we are an equal opportunity cookie bunch).  And everyone is required to tell a story about their cookies.  Yes, even the store bought ones.  Just to listen to these disparate stories and to hear the common  threads in all is such a wonderful, no frills bonding experience.  You hear things like:

If it’s Mama’s recipe, we talk about the Holidays and Mama and the recipe.

It it’s one we just found in a recipe book, we share why it caught our eye.

If it’s one we bought at a store or bakery, we tell why we chose that bakery (“It was close an I was in a hurry”, “I just found them and they make everything from scratch!”).

You’ll be amazed at the stories that come out.  And the laughter and the sharing, and the sparkle.  That guy who always wears Brooks Brothers – who knew he loved …? She doesn’t talk much but she’s always nice – did you know her mother won a Betty Crocker Cookie contest when she was little? She may have three kids under the age of 12 (two in diapers), but she’s sharing a new bakery we didn’t know existed! Or my personal favorite – Why I love Publix – by the IT Guy.

Last year I hosted the family Christmas here on the outskirts of civilization as I know it, and believe me, those cookies were a centerpiece of our celebration and yes, I shared some of the better stories with my family.  Pay it forward!

Now, if you want to start this tradition at your workplace, don’t be disappointed if the initial response is small.  This concept works just with 5 people or 50 people.  Let me share what we’ve discovered:  3 years ago we started with 8 interested parties.  2 years ago we had 17.  Last year we had 30.  This year we have 45 people joining in.

This tradition grows. And it’s wonderful!

Now, I’m going to share my favorite family recipe to get you started.  My honorary Aunt Francis never had any children of her own and I don’t know why, but she was the greatest bearer of old family tradition I’ve ever seen!  This is her Grandmother’s recipe and by now, counting multiple times on my fingers and toes, I believe this recipe, in it’s same, pure form, is officially 136 years old.  And it’s good, it’s very good.

Aunt Francis Wilson’s TeaCakes

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups plain old white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (yes, it’s still out there in the dairy case)
  • 1 tsp. soda (baking)
  • 2 tsp. extract, 1 vanilla and 1 almond
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs 1 at a time and mix with butter/sugar combo.  In a separate, small bowl, mis the buttermilk and baking soda.  Add this to the other mixture.  Add extracts.  Gradually add flour.  Mix until smooth.  Roll mixture out on flat surface and cut and place on a cookie sheet (don’t grease the sheet – the butter in this mix does its own greasing).  Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges.  Yields about 3 dozen.

Feeling crafty? Google Up a butter-cream frosting recipe, dash in a couple drops of your favorite holiday food color, and frost!  Yum!

OK – one more, cause nobody that I know makes these anymore and they’re quick to make, tasty and memorably fun…

Church Windows

windows

  • 1/4 lb. butter (that would be two regular sticks, by the way)
  • 1 package colored miniature marshmellows
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 12 oz. packages chocolate bits
  • 2 cups angel flake coconut (or any shredded coconut – fresh is even better!)

Have three rectangles of waxed paper sitting on the counter sprinkled with the shredded coconut.

Melt butter and chocolate chips over low heat.  If you’ve got a double boiler, even better.  Just melt slowly and stir regularly so nothing burns.  If it starts smoking, yank it off the burner post haste! 

Cool slightly once the mixture is smooth and blended.  Fold in the marshmellows.  Fold in the chopped pecans.

Divide the mix into three equal parts.  Roll into tubes (about 2 inches in diameter).  Then roll the tubes through the coconut to coat.  Wrap the tubes individually into wax paper and stick in the fridge until mixture becomes firm (about 10 hours or overnight). 

Remove, unroll, and slice into wafers.  Voila!  Church windows!  Makes a bunch, depending on how thinly you slice them.

By  the way – cookie cutters make wonderful, useful and affordable party favors!

cut  star  heart

Click the pic if you’re interested! 🙂

Celebrating the holidays, cookies, and most importantly – Sharing!

Please remember to Celebrate Something Everyday!

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