Today’s guest poster is Becky (Willis) Welch – I’ve known Becky for as long as I can remember. In fact, her mom and aunt went to many sleepovers at my mom’s house in their growing up years. =) Becky and I have collaborated on several exciting things in the last several years – we began Literary Ladies together and also started our local Pinterest Partiers group. We’ll talk about those more in depth a little later, but today’s post is all about a fun annual cookie swap/service project that Becky and her family created when her daughter was little. I love this idea! I hope you all get some inspiration from it, too. =) ~Kristen
Seven long years ago (GASP!) in a time before Pinterest (double GASP!) my LB was very interested in two things – making cookies and having parties. She is her mother’s daughter, so I began thinking of what we could do together to combine both of these loves. I had heard of ladies getting together for cookie swaps around Christmas time, but had never actually been to one. I thought to myself, “I could do that with LB and her friends!” VIOLA! Cookie swap was born! Over the years it has grown and evolved – and ultimately, it has become one of everyone’s favorite days of the year. I hope to answer a few of the questions you may have through this post – because my hope and prayer is for you to read this and make it your own. I want your life may be blessed by it as mine has.
STEP 1: Invitation list
At the beginning, LB’s friends and their mothers were the ones who were invited to the party. My mother and aunt who live in town were also invited…simply because I can’t do anything like this without my mother and aunt. Most of the girls were LB’s age, but there were several who were a few years younger. (Side note: We have found 4 years of age to be the “magic” age. Not really sure how we came up with this age, but it has worked. When smaller ones have come, they don’t really understand what is going on and the moms have to be VERY hands on.) Now, we invite grandmothers as well to the party. Some of them live in the area, but we have had grandmothers come into town just for the event.
We live in an older neighborhood and many of our senior members from church live around us. We had the thought of inviting them to the party as well, but my house is not very big and I was a little worried about how everyone was going to fit. Thus came the idea of taking the cookies TO the older people in the neighborhood. So every year, I now make two lists – people to invite and people to visit. Your first step (after making the decision to do this) is to decide WHOM to invite. This is based completely on you and your current life situation, which is the beauty of this. However, don’t forget to make the second list as well – the people who you are going to visit.
STEP 3: Decide on a date.
Each year, we try to hold the cookie swap on the first Saturday of December. We have moved it to different days a few other years, but we have found this day to be the best for everyone involved and it gets us in the Christmas spirit. So this is your second step. WHEN are you going to do this – Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, a random day in the year? Most any woman (and child, if you choose to include children) will be up for a cookie party Any. Day. Of. The. Year. Look at your calendar and set a date! Go ahead…we will wait for you. 😉
STEP 4: Decide on a place.
The first year, the cookie party was held at my house. The next year, as we began to plan and dream, my mother, who lives in the same neighborhood as I do, offered her house. We moved the party to her house and it has been there ever since. Again, the party can be anywhere – a house, a church building, a community center, etc. If you feel the need to go to place and have to rent the building, get a friend or two to go in with you. This will help split the cost.
STEP 5: Create invitations.
We usually send invitations to the people we are inviting. The first year I was really ambitious. You know, I wanted to be THAT mom. I ordered SUPER cute invites from Oriental Trading that were aprons with all kinds of embellishments and the pocket even opened to find a recipe card. Yep, they were WAY cute! The next few years, I learned that super cute invitations were not as important and we either made them on the computer or just found store made invitations. This year, we went one step further – Facebook. Yes, this is how the party has digressed. I did not send out personal invitations. I made an event on Facebook and sent invites that way. No shame – and guess what? No one complained! I do plan on sending invites next year, but thankfully have Facebook as my backup plan!
STEP 6: Planning for food – cookies and non-sweets
Leading up to the day of the party, you can decide how elaborate you want to go with everything. My main focus is always the food because, let’s be honest, that’s one reason we are all gathering! In the invitation, we ask for each person/family member to bring 3-dozen cookies. Recently, I have wondered if we needed to bump it up to 4-dozen cookies, but it really depends on how many people are coming to your party. The plan was to have 1 dozen to share, 1 dozen to eat and 1 dozen to take home. The plan really works out to 1 ½ dozen to share and 1 ½ dozen to eat. Sometimes there are extras to share and take home, but to be honest, no one has really ever complained about not having any left! LB and I always make cookies to share. My mother always makes non-sweets for us to enjoy. No one can resist that sweet and salty combination! We also provide the drinks. Milk and cokes are always an option. Since we have our party in the winter, we also provide warm drinks like apple cider or cranberry tea.
STEP 7: Decide on a theme.
Another important part of the party is the theme. We have not always had a theme, but I will be honest – I ADORE themes! Mom and I will try to catch paper goods on sale after Christmas and put them away for the next year. Some of our “regulars” have also seen things and grabbed them for us! Sometimes to go along with the theme, I will find an activity for the girls to work on while we wait for everyone to come. One year the theme was gingerbread. I found the cutest gingerbread houses the girls were able to decorate. We put the cookies into those and it was just precious. One year, we let the girls decorate mugs. This past year, we had a poinsettia theme. The girls made poinsettia ornaments for them and for our friends we visited. Oriental Trading is another great place to find simple crafts for kids to do for this kind of activity.
STEP 8: Party Day prep
The day of the party we make sure everything on our end is ready to go. We have the table set and the craft ready to go. Once everyone arrives and crafts are completed, we gather together, say a prayer and fill containers for our friends we are going to visit. We have found an aluminum pan is the best thing to use for this part. We have found some from LTD Distributers that have precious little Christmas toppers for them. Whatever you use, Ziploc bags are not ideal for a cookie swap. We tried that one year and let’s just say the cookies almost didn’t make it!
THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP:
Once the trays for our friends are made, we get to enjoy all the wonderful goodies that have been brought. After we have eaten, we divide into groups and hit the road by foot or by car to make the visits. While the cookies are a big part of the day, the visits are the most important part of the day. We really love spending time with these special people. We always spend a few minutes visiting with each house. Some groups will sing Christmas songs, some talk and catch up, and now that we have teenagers, some of us take selfies!
When I mentioned earlier about this becoming a day we all look forward to – I meant EVERYONE! Our older friends will ask about the date to make sure their house is decorated or to be sure they are home. One of our elder’s wives is continually thankful “to not be on the fruit basket list, but on the cookie swap list!” No matter whom you decide to invite, don’t leave this part out of the party! The friendships that have been made between the generations are amazing. The visits don’t just happen on this cookie swap day, but throughout the year. This is the reason we do this. This is the reason the regulars come back. This is the reason we are put on this earth – to make a difference in each other’s lives.
Becky is married to Damon and they have two great kids. Becky is a fantastic elementary school teacher and talented planner of parties and events. The Welch family is super involved in their congregation in Henderson, TN.