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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

DIY Christmas 2012 with Gwen Gardner

First of all, there is no way my dogs would sit idly by while I tortured them to pose with dessert. Come to think of it, even I wouldn't sit still. 

Check out this great DIY Christmas idea from Gwen Gardner. Easy and frugal. Plus, she's included a decadent cookie recipe.

DIY Cookie Exchange

A cookie exchange is a perfect way to get together with friends to socialize during the Christmas holidays. The premise is simple. For each person attending, bake a dozen cookies. So if ten people are attending, each person will bake ten dozen cookies – include yourself in the count. Then get together and exchange cookies and end up with ten dozen different kinds of cookies.

You can make the cookie exchange as formal or informal as you’d like. Before I moved from San Diego, my girlfriends and I got together every December for a cookie exchange. These are my best buddies from grade school and high school, and we have known each other since the 1970’s. Since I’ve known these ladies for most of my life, we are fairly informal. We make it a ladies only event – no men or children. The host (a different host volunteers every year) provides finger foods such as hors d’oeuvres and other snack food. We serve adult beverages. Mulled wine simmering in a crockpot and tantalizing cinnamon aroma is just the thing to make you feel warm and fuzzy and get you into the Christmas spirit.

Whether you’re going formal or informal, here are some tips:

• Provide a Christmas themed door prize. You can provide a collector’s Christmas ornament, a Christmas cookie jar, or ask everyone to bring a cookie cutter, then package them up to give to the winner.
• Send invitations early. Facebook or e-vite is easiest.
• Once the number of attendees is confirmed, let everyone know how many are attending and how many dozens of cookies they need to bake. For this reason, an event on Facebook is ideal.
• Shop early for cookie packaging such as Christmas grab bags, boxes and baggies. You want to provide pretty packaging to send with your friends.
• Bake your favorite cookie. It’s okay to prepare the dough ahead of time and even freeze it. This is the easiest way for working women. Try to make them pretty.
• Plan your eats and drinks menu.
• On the day/evening of the cookie exchange, set up a large table or several tables where guests will arrange their cookies.
• Set up a separate table for the party food and drinks. Mulled wine, hot apple cider and hot chocolate are winter favorites.
• You can play games, tell stories or party. Just remember to take cookies home when you leave.

Since I now live in the Rockies, I don’t do a cookie exchange. But this year when I was baking cookies, I had two cookie monsters who were very attentive. They listened to every word of instruction, heads tilted to the side in order to better understand. You see, the “special” cookie box is in the kitchen, and I bumped it a few times. The cookie monsters know what cookies “sound” like, being experts and all.

Koko and Tuffy used extreme self-discipline while posing with yummy cookies for this photo. They received a doggie cookie for their efforts.

Do you have Cookie Monsters at home?

Chocolate Crinkles:

1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted, cooled
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar 

1. In large bowl, mix oil, chocolate, granulated sugar and vanilla. Stir in eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover; refrigerate at least 3 hours.
2. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheet with shortening or cooking spray.
3. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls into powdered sugar; roll around to coat and shape into balls. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when touched lightly in center. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. 

Makes 6 dozen cookies

Gwen Gardner bio:
Ever have big plans for ‘someday’? Too often it never comes. But Gwen's did.  She quit her corporate job, moved to the mountains and began to write. Crazy, isn't it? But even crazier? Is getting to the end of your life and realizing that 'someday’ is too late.  Life is much too short for that! So the adventure has begun. Gwen Gardner is the author of Givin’ Up The Ghost. In addition to writing young adult paranormal mysteries, Gwen provides services to her fellow indie authors, including novel formatting, proofreading and copy editing. 

Connect With Gwen:


Angela Brown said...

That is such a wonderful idea! A great way to socialize, mingle and enjoy sugary goodness all at the same time.

And the doggies did an excellent job posing with the cookies :-)

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: They have way more self-control than my canine horde.

Gwen: What did you do to make them sit so still? Do you have special dog-mind control powers? :)

E.J. Wesley said...

Oh my lord those look awesome! And no way my beagle-mix could exercise that kind of restraint. She'd swipe one in a heartbeat. :-)

Suzanne Brandyn said...

What a great idea for Christmas. Cookies. Thanks for the tips. It's this time of the year that we all need tips to get us through the festive season.

I must agree. Such obedient dogs. You must have them well trained Gwen. :)

Gwen Gardner said...

Angela, a cookie exchange is a lot of fun. I should have said to have it early in December because people's schedules fill up.

EJ, the cookies are delicious and very chocolately - so if you like chocolate...

Suzanne, there are so many different variations with a cookie exchange. Check out ideas online.

Angela, Maria, EJ and Suzanne - I'm so glad I included my cookie monsters! They're getting way more attention than my cookies, lol. I bought Cesar Milan's book on how to train puppies - when they were puppies, of course, and spent a lot of time training them to sit and stay. Fetch is a favorite of theirs, too.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Man, we made three batches of cookies on sunday and i thought i was cookied out. But looking at this post, i realize that that is just blatently untrue

Shelley Munro said...

A cookie exchange is a very American thing - we don't have them down this end of the world. I'm thinking we should since I love cookies.
I have a Cookie Monster here - another besides me, I mean. I think I've made a similar recipe not long ago. They were delicious.

Gwen Gardner said...

Sarah, it's not bad when you're just making one kind. And then you can "exchange" and get lots of yummy cookies. Then you make up nice packages and give them away to family and friends - unless you eat them all first :)

Gwen Gardner said...

Shelley, you could be the first in your part of the world - it doesn't have to be for Christmas, it could be for any occasion. Start a new trend :)

Mike Keyton said...

Gwen I'd be serious obese with these cookie parties. I have far less self control than your dogs. I presume you used super glue.

Anonymous said...

I haven't done a cookie exchange in forever. Great fun!

Thanks for the recipe.