Cookies, lists and common sense

Chocolate peppermint cookies

Chocolate peppermint cookies

Today has been a beautiful day in Southwest Florida but I have spent almost all of it inside, with the air conditioner cranked up and Christmas carols on.  I spent the day baking and making fudge, then allowed myself to take the time to deliver some to an elderly couple I haven’t seen in a while.  My first thought was, “I’ll quickly drop it off, so I can deliver others and get back home”.  Then, I thought about it some more and said to myself, “No, you will stop and breathe and relax and visit with them because you never take the time to do that anymore”.

I made up my mind that the days preceding Christmas were not going to be stressful this year, and that I would approach it differently .  Instead of having unending lists and must-dos because I have to, I decided to take it one day at a time, to do what I can and if something doesn’t get done, so what? Seriously, what’s going to happen if I don’t have all the shopping done by December 20th or I forget to buy all the ingredients for mom’s red velvet cake?  Nothing, that’s what.

If I forgot to make half of what I’m responsible for, our family would still have enough food left over to feed another family for a week.  And, if lo and behold that one gift I ordered online for my youngest doesn’t come in?  Well, then she will live and have a nice surprise a few days late.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to all step back and think about WHY we do some of the things we do.  Sometimes it seems we’re like hamsters stuck on the treadmill, running ourselves ragged, without accomplishing much.  Although I love traditions, if they become rote robotic type activities, they lose their significance and might as well be abolished.  What if you just make up a brand new tradition that fits your family?

Yesterday, I went to town to do some of my shopping and had it on my list to pick up poinsettias because I have an empty vase sitting here.  I also had two more pages of neatly penned items to do.  However, when I noticed my stress level beginning to climb and felt my allergy ridden body begin to tire, I came home.  No poinsettias and the list is missing many check marks.  I don’t care.  No one even knows and wouldn’t know now if I weren’t telling.

That’s my point, I guess.  We put ourselves under so much pressure to achieve self-inflicted goals that serve to prove what?  That we are exhausted and snappy and stressed?

This attitude is quite the departure from the norm for me as I even say sometimes, “I thrive on chaos”, or “I work better under pressure”.  Don’t misunderstand, I believe in responsibility and I take my obligations very seriously.  The problem that I’ve always had to contend with is that I over extend myself and give myself way too many “imagined obligations”.

Thankfully, I’ve finally learned my family wants my love and attention more than anything.  When we grasp that, the things like baking are actually fun and relaxing.  I didn’t set a goal for how many cookies I had to bake and how many people had to receive theirs today…I just baked and danced around my kitchen singing Christmas carols and texted pictures of cookies to family members.  It was fun.  I’m having fun a few days before Christmas!

As I write this, there are presents to be wrapped and a craft project left abandoned.  I will get around to wrapping the presents, but the craft project can wait until next year.  My house is clean, decorated and smells like cookies and peppermint.  I think we will all live if I fail to make one more decoration, especially if that means I have more time to enjoy my family.

Merry Christmas!

“Memories are the treasures that we keep locked deep within the storehouse of our souls, to keep our hearts warm when we are lonely.”  Becky Aligada

Baking for dummies

Making thumbprint cookies

Making thumbprint cookies

I hate when I’m browsing for recipes and I see a picture of something that looks perfectly scrumptious, only to click on the actual recipe to find out it is a mile long with complicated instructions.  What part of “easy recipes” does Google not understand?  Then they try to sabotage you with directions like “blend to desired consistency”.  What exactly is that supposed to mean?  My desire is that I actually end up with something edible.

In my late forties and just now actually beginning to enjoy baking, I don’t want to blast my confidence by attempting something that takes 2 hours just to assemble; it’s just not going to happen.  Well, maybe someday but definitely not today (or this year, I’m guessing).

I’m having one other slight problem with baking.  I can no longer hold some of the recipes (think small print on backs of semi-sweet morsel bags) far enough away to actually read them.  When I get into the middle of making something, I’m too stubborn to go find my “magnifier glasses” so it’s quite fortunate that I’m not mistaking a TSP for a TBSP which I’m finding really can make a difference.

I find that I am coveting a lot of gadgets and pans and kitchen items that I only bought in the past for the Suzie Homemaker’s on my gift list.  Thankfully for me, my mother in law is delighted with my new found love (or maybe like would be a better word at this point)  for baking and has some of these items that she is blessing me with!  I plan to hit my hubby up soon for some of the pricier things but the plan is to wait until after Christmas and until he is well over his despair of what it cost him.

Well, back to browsing for something else tasty.  Maybe if I search under “really super easy” or “baking for dummies”  I’ll have better luck?  I do think I will attempt my mother’s red velvet cake.  I’ve done it once before and it was a hit!

Happy baking and MERRY CHRISTMAS Eve to you all!

A recipe for memories


Hershey’s thumbprint cookies; photo by Morgan

Mm mm, I love the smell of cookies baking at Christmas time (well actually at any time), but there is something special about it around the holidays.  My kids always wanted to bake sugar cookies and decorate them.  Thank God when they were younger I had their granny to come over and help me.

We would put my kids and whatever nieces or nephews were here all around a table in the middle of the kitchen and give them icing and sprinkles and they would create their little masterpieces.  By the time they had licked their little fingers multiple times and piled icing on an inch thick, I never could make myself actually eat one, but they had fun and that was what it was all about.  Oh, the mess!   We’d have cookie batter and flour, and icing from one end of the kitchen to the other.  Yes, there might have been a mess, but they were making sweet memories in the process.

Toll house cookies

Toll house cookies; photo by Morgan

Their favorites were the Christmas tree and stocking shapes, so we had the occasional battle over who got the next one.  They would do their very best and wait for us tell them how beautiful their contribution had turned out.  You had to be careful and dole out the praise very equally or one of them would notice and call you out on it.  If I can be totally honest, at the time, I was usually glad when they finished and got bored with the whole baking scene and went back outside to play (this was because at the time I hadn’t learned that they would only be young a short time and the house being clean really wasn’t that important).  Now I am so thankful for those precious memories and that we took the time to let them make them.

Today we did the annual cookie baking, but it was an older crew.  Our youngest member is now 16.  We worked together and got several batches done in no time at all.  I enjoyed being in the kitchen together; the laughter and joking with one another.  Well, mostly it was Kim (a family friend) and I laughing at my daughter, Morgan and her granny.  They are hysterical because they are so much alike.  It was different and some of the players were missing, but it was still enjoyable.

We made Hershey’s kiss thumbprints, pumpkin spice cookies, and toll house cookies with pecans.  I tasted all of them and now I’m sitting here in a post-sugar haze, wishing I hadn’t.  I’m sitting here reflecting on the times I made light of things or rushed through them to satisfy my selfish, control-freak personality.  Gratefully and by the grace of God, I’m once again thankful for age and wisdom and the ability to realize how precious every moment spent with loved ones really is.

Won’t you do the same?  Stop and consider time and its relentless passing and prioritize carefully.  You won’t regret it, not for one moment.

Mitch Teemley

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