My holiday baking and candy making extravaganza begins today!
A self-proclaimed chewy-gewy treat addict, I’ll admit I’ve waited all year for this. I’ve always loved to bake and get otherwise creative in the kitchen.
I think all of us creative types need a second imaginative outlet. If you’re primarily a painter, perhaps you also like to sing? If you’re a musician, maybe you also act? Many writers I know turn to the kitchen, whether it be baking or cooking or creative drink making (and drink drinking), for the release of that unspent pent up artistic energy.
While I too partake in the occasional drinky-drink for various inspired and not-so-inspired reasons, personally I love baking. It satisfies my creative needs and soothes my soul, much like writing. And in recent years, to the gratitude of my family and friends, I’ve added making candy and canning jellies and jams to my repertoire! And, of course, I never do anything half-assed (my father taught me that lesson!). Nope. I joyfully frolic in complete creative obsession!
Back before I became a wife and mom, I would compete with myself year after year. If I made 20 different types of cookies one year, I had to make at least 21 varieties the next. Spending the majority of my 20s living and working in North Jersey and New York City, it often seemed that the size of my apartment and closet-sized kitchens were counter-proportional to the quantity of cookies and cakes I chose to make.
But that’s when I learned to improvise. Add a little extra creativity to the mix, so to speak, and you can make anything work. For example, when I ran out of counter space, I turned to the coffee table, sofa, chairs and window sills. One year, I had an army of gingerbread men strategically spread throughout my tiny one bedroom apartment. They had already invaded my kitchen, living room, bedroom and even my bathtub. A dozen or so of them were waiting outside, perhaps planning their next attack from my fire escape.
Competitive and obsessive? Who me?
Well if the snow shoe fits!
The Christmas following the birth of my daughter, it got worse. With a new bundle of joy and a recent kidney disease diagnosis, all of our money was going to diapers and doctors. We were flat broke. While I could’ve given up my festive holiday hobby, I decided instead to get even more creative with it. So I got my supplies on sale and made my own packaging, decorations, ornaments and wrappers. Since these were the only gifts we could afford to give, I wanted to make sure each one was made with love. I wanted my family and friends to feel special and know that even though we’re struggling financially (and at times, physically), we love and cherish them very much.
At first, I struggled with it. I thought my loved ones would feel slighted. I wondered if they thought I was being selfish, cheap or stingy. But you know what? I was worried for nothing because in comparison to gifts we’d bought over the years and wrapped with pretty and expensive paper, ribbons and bows, the people in our lives seemed to appreciate these homemade gifts even more. And perhaps more than they loved receiving and consuming them, I loved making and sharing them.
In regards to our financial situation, well we’re not out of the woods yet. Far. From. It! We’re all in the same boat, and the economy has taken a paddle to everyone’s bottom line.
Had I known the economy was going to crash mere months after I quit my job to take a huge risk and become an aspiring novelist… well, I would have still done it. No guts, no glory. Right? No pain, no gain? I guess I’m a glutton for more than just sweets. Let’s just say, I’m bound and more-than-determined to stay the course and live life by these sorts of mantras until I achieve my dream. Then at that point, I’ll continue doing it for shits and giggles.
So today, I start my annual making and baking for the holidays. In round one, I will be making candy cane kiss cookies from scratch and itty-bitty baby cheesecakes with homemade toppings. My homemade toppings will be comprised of jams and jellies I’ve made and canned throughout the year. Tomorrow, I’ll add the classics: oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, meringues and snickerdoodles for a few of my favorite elves.
Round two will be all about candy. Val’s Candy Workshop has already been prepped. I’ll be making coconut cream bon-bons, peppermint patties, peanut butter cups and brittle. Plus I got tons of candied fruit, pretzels, cookies and some other homemade goodies with which to experiment.
This year, the secret password is fondue.
Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like chewy-gewy calories and chocolate covered everything! We can worry about burning it all off in the New Year.