Whipping Up Christmas

What do you get when you mix eleven good girlfriends (and one friend's visiting mom), a bunch of crafting and cooking supplies, a rainy and cold Sunday afternoon in early December, and a shared Pinterest board?

170 neighbor/co-worker/teacher gifts,
that's what!

(Note: The recipes and printable labels we used are coming in the next two days 
to make your last-minute gifting easier. Merry Christmas.)

The Pinterest Christmas Crafting Party at my house is now the kickoff of my holiday season and definitely one of its highlights for me. (This was our second crafting party; we also have a recipe party at St. Patrick's Day.) It is an invigorating challenge to get it organized, sure, and it makes for a long day when we finally get down to crafting, but it's a real hoot that we don't have to feel bad about taking time out for. This isn't just another stand-and-chat party squeezed into the crazy holiday schedule.

THIS is a party that GETS STUFF DONE. Think of a hyper- productive Santa's workshop wo-manned by the people you like best in the world. One that's fueled by homemade soups, salads, desserts, and cocoa (and, okay, slightly spiked wassail with little clove-studded roasted apples floating in it). And one with the volume turned up. (Waaaaay up!)

This year, after my awesome husband ceded the house to mess-making (for what he calls the "HEN-terest Party," and escaped with the other mates to their usual "Men-terest Party" (read: football and grilling) at a sympathetic friend's house, we made (in order):

SIX pounds of pistachio/cherry chocolate bark,

FORTY half-pint jars of Praline Ice Cream Sauce,

 SIXTEEN 4-ounce jars of Caramel Dipping Sauce, 


TWENTY-FIVE pots of orange-oil scented beeswax and shea butter Body Balm,  

and FIFTY-FOUR quart jars of Blondie Toffee Bars 
for our (other) friends.

Plus COUNTLESS good memories, for ourselves, of course.

It was just what I want for Christmas: creative time with people I care about.

I wish I'd gotten over my sense that my house isn't big enough or grand enough to entertain my friends a long time ago, I do. (False pride. Immaturity. Insecurity. Take your pick.)  See, I have an open living room-dining room-kitchen, but it's really on the small side.  There's no granite or hardwood or stainless steel in sight.

And yet, we managed to shoehorn ourselves in, have a GREAT time, get a lot done, and still keep our fingers out of the way of paper cutter blade and our feet (mostly) off each others' toes. We wore work clothes and comfy shoes and stayed until we ran out of brown sugar (oops, my bad) and energy, working sweatshop-style.

Now, it took us SEVEN hours--since I'm always more ambitious planning than I have a right to be--but that included steamy mugs of cocoa, Wassail, salad,  and shrimp-and-corn soup breaks, and lots of catching up off to the side. And plenty of laughter, of course, especially as the evening wore on.

In addition to having sweet little homemade somethings to share with others, we came away with the gift of knowing a little more about each other in the way you just can't until you share a task and see someone work with their hands. I don't think you really know somebody

until you do tedious work together, 

until you have to admit your bath bomb looks vaguely obscene despite your best efforts,  

and until you have to swallow the crow of triumph you really want to make 
when yours comes out perfect! on the second try:

Friendships fostered on dinners out and Bible studies can't help but metamorphose 
when you craft and cook and really just create together. 

I don't know what makes Christmas special for you, but when I think of the best parts of the season, they don't come in a box with a bow. They every single one have Christian names. I will admit I'm vaguely irritated with the syrupy carols and mildly bemused by the plethora of decorations crowding my neighbors' yards. I honestly don't care what's under the tree for me or on the table come mealtime (though I expend prodigious effort on our meal and on gifts for others). The best part--the only really important part--of the holidays is the gift of marking another year with these people I love the best,  and who grant me the grace to love me back (even when I miscalculate how many boxes of brown sugar and crisped rice cereal we'll need).

In other words, the gift I look forward to is the same as the first Christmas, that of love and time and memory shared.

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