Wednesday, 25 November 2015

How to Host a Successful Christmas Cookie Exchange

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is coming up next week! This year will mark the 10th Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange that I will be hosting at my house! It’s a day for us ladies to get together over tea or wine and have appies and catch up, all while trading our new or favorite holiday cookie recipes!!

If you have never been a part of a Christmas Cookie Exchange, let me tell you how it works!! It’s surprisingly easy and a LOT of fun!! Basically, each person who attends the party brings six dozen of their favorite type of cookie, then we make the exchange and everyone brings six dozen different cookies home!!

Ten years ago when I hosted my first cookie exchange, I wasn’t really sure how it worked, so I googled, and found this page . This site gave me a very specific set of rules that, for the first couple of years I was very specific about following… and honestly some of the rules were a little too much for me, so I have relaxed them into the rules below and things have gone much more smoothly ever since!

Recipe for these beauties
Before the rules, a few tips to make your life easier as the hostess of the cookie party!! First of all, give LOTS of notice! I usually send out my invitations (usually as a facebook event) about a month or so before the party. People have very busy social calendars, and if they know about this event well enough ahead, they can also plan to make time for the baking part of the party!! Although some people get stressed about having to bake 6 dozen cookies, remember: that usually just means two batches of a single recipe, since most cookie recipes make 3 dozen cookies!!

Second: Don’t stress!! This is supposed to be a fun event!! I usually have my Christmas tree up mid-November, so my Christmas d├ęcor is the only decorating I do for the party, well aside from the beautiful cookies all my friends bring along!! I buy or make a few easy appetizers, open a few bottles of wine and make a pot of tea and we just sit and chat and catch up with each other!

If you have the time, ask your friends to provide you their recipes ahead of time and put together a Cookie Book. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s super easy and your friends will thank you! When I hosted my first cookie exchange, I asked people to bring copies of their recipes, so if someone LOVED a cookie, they’d be able to bake it! Inevitably, people would forget, so I try to collect everyone’s recipe the week before and print them all off into a little booklet for my guests to bring home! Voila, ten minutes of copying and pasting into a Word document and all of our new favorite recipes in one place to share!!

Finally, I know that people are busy, but busy people still want cookies!! I allow people to bake their cookies and drop them off to me before the party and I will do the exchanging part for them. Last year I had one participant in labour, and another working and one more that had a different party to attend… but they all wanted to bake and exchange cookies, so they brought them over before the party, prepackaged and ready to go and I exchanged their yummies for them! One last thing that may make your life as Cookie Party hostess a little better… and by no means is this necessary, it’s just my OCD coming out to play… if you have an odd number of participants, and you won’t be able to evenly divide cookies (for example 11 people x 6 dozen (72) cookies = 6.54 of each recipe per participant) whip up an extra batch of cookies.

See how amazing having twelve different types of cookies can be????
As the hostess, you are likely already a baker and have a ton of recipes in your arsenal. In addition to making it easier to divide and package cookies (especially when many of the guests pre-package their cookies), if you bring two entries to the party, you LEAVE with double the cookies!!

So, without further ado, and using guidance from Robin’s Rules to Hosting a Cookie Exchange, here are my…

1. All cookies should be homemade, baked and main ingredient must be a type of flour. This means your guests will bring COOKIES. Not Rice Krispie treats, not meringues, COOKIES. After all, this is a Cookie Exchange!!

2. No plain chocolate chip cookies, cookie mixes, no-bakes, meringues or bars. Anyone can open a package and add an egg, this party is for cookies made with love. We allowed bars one year, and they didn’t cut well, they weren’t evenly sized, and they didn’t package and stack like cookies.

3. Please bring 6 dozen total cookies… well maybe a couple extra to share… but really, six dozen cookies. One recipe baked twice, 72 cookies. It makes it easier for sorting and separating when the actual exchange part of the party, and means that no one is shorted cookies because someone only managed to bake 60 cookies.

4. Email a copy of your recipe before the party (or bring recipe to the party). In addition to putting together a Cookie Book like I do, having everyone provide their planned recipes in advance means that you won’t get duplicates. Not that having four kinds of shortbread is the worst problem to have, but variety is the spice of life!!

5. If you don't have time to bake, or have burnt your cookies, but still want to attend, you must go to a real bakery and buy 6 dozen yummy cookies. This one is pretty self-explanatory! In all of my years, it’s only happened on time that someone had to bring bakery cookies!!

I am so so so looking forward to this year’s festivities!! This year’s Cookie Book already has recipes for Oreo Peppermint Crunch Cookies and Salted Caramel Stuffed Snickerdoodles. I. Can’t. Wait!!!!!! Thanks for stopping by today! I really appreciate it!!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Menu Plan Monday - Nov 16, 2015

Happy Monday my friends!!! Does anyone else feel like time is just flying by?? Can you believe it’s already the middle of November?? I feel like as organized as I try to be, I am super behind schedule!! Normally I would have all of my shopping done, most of the gifts wrapped, the tree ready to put up, and all my Christmas cards written and ready to mail – this year… Notsomuch :(.
2014 Cookie Exchange Goodies!!!
I guess I had better get cracking on my to-do lists!! This week I am really excited to share with you one of my family traditions, ten years in the making!! This December, a group of ladies and I will celebrate my 10th Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange!! It’s a great way for us to get together, have some wine and appies and share our favorite cookie recipes! The event is a lot of fun, but follows some pretty strict rules – check back in later this week to find out how to host an amazing cookie exchange!

One thing I have been able to stick to (list wise anyway) is menu planning! I have found myself looking back over my old recipes here on the blog to find some old favorites that I forgot about!!

On the menu this week:

Monday: Homemade pizzas
Tuesday: Fish burgers and French Fries
Wednesday: Pasta with veggies and prawns
Thursday: New Recipe – Beef and Broccoli
Friday: Chicken strips and potato wedges
Saturday: Everyone is out tonight – hockey game, Girl Guide camp, sleepover… Mama’s going Christmas Shopping! Dinner will be Starbucks fueling me on!!
Sunday: Chicken Fajitas and Cheese Quesadillas

I’ll be linking my menu plan up to OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday – check it out!!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Staying Organized through the Chaos of Christmas

Hello my lovely friends! I hope you all have had a wonderful week so far! Our family went to honour our veterans at a beautiful Remembrance Day ceremony yesterday. The weather was gorgeous, the kids were on their best behaviour, and we got to spend the day together after the ceremony. All in all, a fantastic day! It’s always been a tradition in our house to hold off on decorating for Christmas until after Remembrance Day. So I can’t say that I was shocked when the girls asked if we were putting up our Christmas tree on the drive home from the Cenotaph!

I don’t think we will actually have time to start our Christmas decorating until at least this weekend, but I thought I would bring together some of my favorite tips and tricks to make the Christmas season more organized and less stressful! Since, as of today there are only 42 days until Christmas, I’m sure that many of us are getting ready to panic!! Crazy parking lots at the mall, a bazillion people fighting to find the perfect gift, Black Friday sales.... The chaos of Christmas is enough to make us all crazy!!! I thought it would be fun to share with you all how I (try to) stay organized through the chaos!!

Make a list, and check it twice! Christmas is expensive! I keep a spreadsheet each Christmas that lists everyone I have to buy for, how much I plan to spend, and a column to note whether or not I have actually purchased the gift. I keep pretty much the same list, from year to year, (adding on new nieces and nephews as needed!) just needing to change up the number of neighbours and teachers to buy for, as well as any gift exchange names as needed.

Organize your wrapping supplies! Since our tree will be going up pretty soon, I’ll need to get started on wrapping all of the Christmas presents I have already bought and have hidden away! Taking 15 minutes to gather all of my gift wrapping necessities and organizing them will keep me sane when I feel like I’m drowning in gift boxes and glitter!!


Think of a theme! Every year I try to pick a theme when planning the gifts for my husband and kids. Last year, since the girls were getting into horseback riding and taking lessons, we did a Cowboy Christmas – everyone got Taylor Swift tickets, cowboy boots and riding helmets for Christmas! I even made inexpensive horse-themed artwork for the girls’ rooms! This year, since we are heading to Disney at the end of February, we are working on a travel theme!

Keep the traditions strong! Life is crazy, but I feel like it’s my job as a wife and mother to make my family’s Christmas experience amazing every year. A few years ago, we created this Advent Activity Calendar to give us a fun, inexpensive holiday activity each day in the month of December. Being totally honest, this year I have had to really plan out our activities, so they work in line with the girls’ dance and Sparks/Girl Guides schedules, but knowing that each day we get do so something fun is amazing… I just need to plan a “Fancy Hot Chocolate with Sprinkles” date on days were we double up on dance!

Don’t forget to read!! Another fun, easy thing we do at this time of year is create a basket of books gift wrapped under the tree! Each book is numbered (1-24, obviously!) and each night at bedtime, we get a fun little Christmas/winter themed story. I love that these used to be books that I would read to the girls, and now they are reading to me!

Make a Christmas Eve Box!! Since I was a child, I can always remember my mom giving us new jammies on Christmas Eve. I’ve always done the same with my girls, but last year I made Christmas Eve a little extra special by wrapping up a box with the new jammies, some candy canes, hot cocoa and marshmallows and some Christmas crafts!

Save your sanity on Christmas morning! After spending the month of December getting organized, shopping til you drop and wrapping presents until the wee hours of the morning, there is nothing worse than having one of your gifts require a special tool, or batteries that aren’t included, and don’t even get me started on the wrapping paper!! Save yourself on Christmas morning by preparing a bin to recycle your gift wrap and a kit with tools to open gifts, batteries to get things started and extra batteries for your camera!

Well there you have it my friends, a super long version of how I keep myself from going crazy in the 42 days between now and Christmas morning! Thanks so much for stopping by today, and Merry Christmas!!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Menu Plan Monday - November 9, 2015

Happy Monday my friends!!! I’m not sure what the weather was like where you are, but in our neck of the woods, this past weekend was soaking wet and completely miserable – a perfect weekend to stay indoors, watch movies and sports and drink hot cocoa.
Link to this amazing recipe!!
When I saw an entire weekend without a single commitment on it (after recovering from my shock!!), I figured that I would have a ton of time to finish organizing the girls clothes in their newly shared room, and get to work on my crafting space in Miss E’s old room. Instead, we were Lazy Bones Joneses all day Saturday! Sunday after church, the girls and I went Christmas shopping for a couple of hours and then there was a great afternoon of Lego building, so alas, the organizing plan fell to the wayside… oh well, there’s always next time!

This week, after Remembrance Day, of course, I am putting together a post about all of my favorite Christmas organizing and planning ideas. Christmas is a BIG DEAL in our house, and in order to make sure we don’t miss a single tradition, I need to plan things out early!! Come back over here for a read later this week!

On the menu this week:

Monday: Spaghetti and meat sauce with garlic breadsticks
Tuesday: Dinner at my moms!
Wednesday: Salmon, rice and veggies
Thursday: Perogies and farmer sausage
Friday: Brinner! Breakfast for dinner!!
Saturday: Homemade burgers and fries
Sunday: Chicken Florentine Lasagne

I’ll be linking my menu plan up to OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday – check it out!!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Master Closet Overhaul

Hello my friends! I’m back today to share something with you that has literally changed my life; like actually changed my life. I have been reading a lot about capsule wardrobes, and while I doubted I could ever pull it off, with my continued reading and research I came across a book that so many minimalists and organizers were raving about – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (affiliate link).

After reading a bunch of Pinterest’d articles about this amazing book and seeing some pretty incredible closet transformations I purchased the book on Amazon and sat with my Kindle to learn the tips and tricks. The most important thing I learned early on in my reading was the need for this project to be all encompassing. While often times I tackle the closet (or any other project) a bit at a time (today the shirts, tomorrow the pants, etc) this time around I took a different approach altogether. By the way, you'll have to excuse the photos in this post. It was nearly impossible to get any well-lit photos in the space!

Although my husband was not impressed with my plan, I started early on a Saturday morning by pulling E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G out of the closet in our master bedroom. We made a plan to specifically touch every single item in the closet to see if it met the magic criteria – Does it spark joy? If the item wasn’t something that we had worn recently, or could see wearing again, it had to go. In the same vein, if it was something that we had worn recently, but we didn’t love it, it too had to go.

I swear, the things you learn about your husband when you work on a project of this size together? I swear, this man had over 40 plain white undershirts!! I understand, you need to have one for every day, maybe for two weeks worth if you are worried we won't get to the laundry one weekend.... but he had over a MONTH's worth of white shirts!! I convinced him to reduce this stack...a lot.... He still has a lot of plain white t's though!

I’m going to be honest, it was tough. I thought that I had already done a good job paring down my wardrobe. I also knew that it was would be painful for my husband to actually get rid of things. His theory was that if someone bought it for him, he couldn’t let it go. Together we made this criteria for his clothing choices: would he wear it to take me out to dinner tomorrow night? If not, it had to go. This, of course, did not apply to jerseys…. Most of those “made the cut” and had to be kept.

Now, we’ve all done big closet purges, so what, you ask changed my life? The KonMari clothes folding technique!! I used my collection of tank tops (which previously numbered in the 40-50 top range, and was pared down to about 20, which still seems like a lot, but I layer them with everything!!) and used this folding method to lineup and organize my tank tops. It was so amazing that I decided to go through both of the girls’ drawers of tops and used the same technique. You want to talk about sparking joy? That two hour process sparked some serious joy for this mama!! I realize now that I didn't take photos of this step... thankfully I had two little girls' dressers full of clothes to practice on, so there will be a post on that later!

At the end of a very long day of sorting and organizing, I managed a three laundry basket high pile of clothing donations. I added five purses to the pile and was pleased as punch with my progress! My husband managed to purge his side of the closet of two huge garbage bags of clothes for donation!

Another important trick when completing a big overhaul like this? Purge the hangers!! OMG we had a TON of hangers!! I had purchased some of the lovely velvety hangers a couple of years ago, and used only those on my side of the closet. My husband used a few of the old ones, but mostly the new type. We had so many hangers that needed to find their way out of our house! If we didn't have any extra (well we had a few extra velvet ones left over) we wouldn't be tempted to fill them up with more stuff.

I can’t wait to finish reading this book!! I want to see if I can finally move our household into our ultimate goal – becoming minimalish. Thanks for stopping by today! I really appreciate it!!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Menu Plan Monday - Nov 2, 2015

Good morning!! I hope you all had a safe and exciting Hallowe’en! We had a split household this year – one 6 year old trick or treating witch and one stay-home-and-hand-out-candy nine year old. Miss E brought in a great haul of candy, and Miss A went on a trip to Purdy’s for her favorite candy (hedgehogs). A fair trade off, I think!

Can you believe it’s November already? It’s definitely time to get my organization hat on and get ready for Christmas! We don’t start decorating until after Remembrance Day (obviously) but the shopping I need to get done quickly! I get majorly stressed out fighting with people at the mall in December.

This week, once I finish planning out our November menu plan, I hope to put together a post on my favorite ways to organize Christmas – how to budget, how to make sure you don’t miss a gift, and how to keep your family Christmas traditions alive and strong. New to our family traditions this year is our Elf on the Shelf, Scarlett. The girls can’t wait until she arrives back this December 1!!

On the menu this week:
Monday: Fettucine with homemade alfredo and prawns
Tuesday: Fish and chips
Wednesday: Pork tenderloin, potatoes and veg (my sister is cooking!!)
Thursday: Turkey tacos and cheese quesadillas
Friday: Spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic breadsticks
Saturday: Teriyaki chicken, rice and stir fried veggies
Sunday: Roasted chicken, potato wedges and veggies
I’ll be linking my menu plan up to OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday – check it out!!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Menu Plan Monday - Oct 26, 2015

Good morning!! After a weekend of gorgeous weather it looks like fall is finally upon us… pouring rain and not very warm… makes me want to curl up with a good book and a blanket in front of the fireplace. We had a fantastic weekend though! Travelled an hour away to get my littles to an Irish Dancing Feis (competition) and they did fantastic! Yesterday we spent the day cleaning the house and preparing for the week.

I’m so pleased with my fam for how we managed to get through yesterday! We made a GIANT to-do/clean list and managed to get through the whole thing. Everyone pitched in and we not only got all of the chores done, but the girls and I packed and prepped for the week’s activities, baked for a party tonight, AND my husband went grocery shopping!! I know, crazy, right??

This week we’re hoping to try out a new recipe that I can share with you on the weekend! Also in the works (since I missed it last week) is my post about my master bedroom closet. Two weeks later and it still looks fantastic and is completely functional!

On the menu this week:
Tuesday: Fish tacos with a zesty lime slaw, homemade guacamole
Thursday: Chicken parmesan and spaghetti
Saturday: Hallowe’en – Pizza and candy for dinner!!
I’ll be linking my menu plan up to OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday – check it out!!


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