Dec 5, 2011

Saving Christmas: Baking and merry-making

 I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays as much as we are!  Our house is decorated inside and out.  I was too busy decorating to snap many pics, but here's the dining room:

With the decorating done, this week I can turn my attention to baking and candy-making, and the days are shaping up like this: 

Monday: It's the cookie brigade. This year's lineup was carefully culled through and chosen for tradition, flavor variety and visual appeal.  Here's what made the cut: date pinwheels, almond crescents, and peppernuts and apricot jewels (old family favorites, but new for me to make), and new contenders, peanut butter "buttons" with licorice laces, or peanut butter reindeer with M&M eyes and pretzel antlers; and finally pecan cheese straws, which aren't sweet, but are otherwise just like making shortbread cookies.  Since I'm doing it all in one night, I can assembly-line everything from mixing to baking and have just one pile of dirty bowls and pans to deal with when I'm done.
Tuesday: Swim meet night, so no big plans for the evening.  Hopefully I can get a little gift wrapping done before I head to the pool deck
Wednesday: Toffee, fudge and peppermint patties and pralines from scratch, along with "filler" candies like coated pretzels or pretzel/rolo turtles, which I can cajole middle son and swimmer girl into making. And maybe another batch of apple cider caramels, because they are pretty delicious.
Thursday: Finishing up the gift wrapping. Confession:  gift wrapping this early is new for us this year - many times we are frantically wrapping gifts a day or two before Christmas. Not this year, not if I can help it.  Then a quick once-over on the house is in order, because company's coming!  Mr. Official's crew is invited over for an end-of-season holiday gathering on Saturday night.
Friday:  This year's lineup includes miniature loaves of quick breads: strawberry-nut and chocolate chip sour cream, plus a pumpkin or red velvet cake roll, sliced and portioned out. Wrapped in cellophane and frozen, these are great last-minute hostess gifts or they can help fill out a plate of goodies for someone. I'll just have time to get everything whipped up and baked, then I'm headed out to help watch a group (not sure how many) of toddlers and children from our congregation.  We're giving the young moms and dads free babysitting so they can have a date night, or get their Christmas shopping done.
Saturday: Food, friends and fun are on today's lineup.  I'm not sure what the menu is, at least as of today, since I'm not sure if this will be sit-down formal or come-and-go casual.  (Word to the wise:  this is what happens when you let guys invite guys over....)
Sunday:  After I whip up a batch of homemade marshmallows as gifts for my third grade students (I give them each a mug filled with hot cocoa mix and homemade marshmallows), it's a designated day of rest.  And really, everything that needs to be done will have been done:  the trees are decorated, gifts are wrapped, cookies baked and the candies made.  Phew!

And then it's time to sit back and enjoy truly the best parts of the season - visiting with friends and family, admiring holiday lights, and stealing away for a few days to celebrate our (29th!!!) anniversary, then slipping back just before anyone has a chance to miss us.

You may choose to pace yourself and spread out your Christmas preparations a little more than I do, but if you're pressed for time, like most of us are, hopefully these two weeks with ten big to-do days will inspire you to create your own streamlined lists and leave yourself plenty of time to savor the season.

Happy holidays!

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