Swapping holiday sweets 

For some people, hearing the first sleigh bell of the season jingle is more than enough to imbue them with holiday joy and excitement. But for others, well, let’s just say it may take something a bit more delectable to chase away the bah-humbugs.

As an avid baker, and Seinfeld fan, I must defer to Jerry when I suggest that we “look to the cookie.”

Seriously, though, if you aren’t feeling in the holiday spirit just yet, I recommend heading to the grocery store and grabbing all of the ingredients that you need to whip up a batch of your favourite childhood biscuit, be it sugar, molasses, gingersnap or even the simple, yet classic, chocolate chip. Aside from a tasty end result, who can resist the smell of freshly baked shortbread cookies, or a cheery little gingerbread house?

If your television is within eyeshot from the kitchen, pop in a copy of A Christmas Story or Home Alone (the original, only) to set the mood, sprinkle some flour down on the freshly scrubbed countertop, and start baking!

Now, a lot of people certainly don’t consider themselves to be talented, or even capable, chefs, but to those people, I offer a literary eye roll. Cooking and baking may not come naturally to everyone, but I contend that just about anyone can follow simple, step-by-step directions (also known as a recipe).

So, no more excuses. Dig out that longtime favourite family concoction, or better yet, turn to the Internet and check out websites like www.allrecipes.com or www.bettycrocker.com and experiment with some new recipes. Online, people can rate recipes and offer tips, tricks and tweaks, so as long as you follow the directions, most are fairly foolproof. Most importantly, don’t overbake them. In my books, there’s nothing worse than a burnt cookie.

Now, the next step — take your cookies to the public.

This year, I’m organizing an inter-office cookie exchange, recruiting bakers and non alike to bake (or buy) and bring two-dozen cookies. The trick is to make sure that each person contributes a different kind, so at the exchange, everyone can take home a great assortment.

Now, a traditional cookie exchange is usually only between about eight people (think busy moms), who bake about five or six dozen cookies of one type, then trade so they don’t have to do any baking over the holiday season. But in our office, asking each person to bake that many cookies could be a bit of a daunting task, and I figured that 1,380 cookies might be a bit overkill. By scaling down the number, and inviting more people, we should end up with an impressive assortment to take home to families and roommates.

I’m still debating what I’ll bring — there are just so many delicious options. Should I stick with a tried and true, like a star-shaped sugar cookie adorned with some pretty pastel icing, or experiment with something a bit more challenging, like eggnog snickerdoodles? Either way, I’m sure I’ll end up with a delicious tin full of goodies.

 

Extra helpings

Many of the friendly faces that serve coffee, operate lifts and take care of other tasks won’t have a chance to make it home for Christmas. Some have just arrived in town, making a massive journey from as far away as Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Others simply can’t get time off work during Whistler’s busiest season.

In previous years, to provide some semblance of home while feeding hungry tummies, the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) and the Catholic Church have teamed up to organize Christmas dinners for these so-called “orphans.” But they stopped the practice a few years ago.

“We haven’t been involved in an orphan’s dinner for probably six years, I’d say,” said Greg McDonnell, executive director of the WCSS. “…It sort of dwindled, and the last year we did it, there were only five to 10 people that came, and (it took) a lot of volunteer effort to pull it off.”

But McDonnell points out that there are still plenty of hungry mouths to feed in our community.

Kari Mancer, food bank coordinator for WCSS, said the winter season is a particularly trying time of year, especially for people who are new to town, and especially because of the slow start to the season this year. Many people weren’t anticipating such high rents, and were hoping to start work much sooner than they’ve been able to. Because of all of these factors, demand on the food bank is high, while donations have been lower than normal.

If you’d like to get into the holiday spirit and lend a helping hand, you can make a donation of food at IGA, Nesters or Creekside Market.

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