I love to bake, but it’s one of those things that can easily wind up feeling like just one more thankless item on the “you know, you really should…” list.
So how to put the joy and fun back into rolling out dough and busting out those sprinkles? Here are some ideas that have helped me establish my priorities and bring a little sanity back to that mixing bowl:
First, figure out why you’re baking in the first place. Do you like the social aspect of baking with a friend or your spouse? Do you get the most pleasure from baking your favorite recipes? Do you get artistic satisfaction from decorating? Or are you mostly doing it so your kids have the opportunity to pour sprinkles and eat their creations? Establishing that “why” can help you figure out where to skim without cutting back on the satisfaction.
Now that you’ve got your priorities figured out – always a good first step when trying to simplify your life – try whichever of these ideas make sense for you:
- Scale back. It’s tempting to try to make every delicious treat and cool craft you see on Pinterest, but trying to do too much is a recipe for getting overwhelmed and burned out. And if your favorite part is the baking – bringing your grandmother’s recipes to life, mixing, or eating delicious, one-of-a-kind creations – you may get frustrated trying to do too many, feeling like you’re sacrificing quality for quantity. Instead of making two dozen kinds of cookies, why not focus on one or two this year?
- Team up. Everything seems easier – and more fun – when you’ve got another parent to split the work and the clean-up. If your friends invite you and the kids over to bake or decorate cookies, by all means accept the invitation! I went to my friend Melissa’s last week to make gingerbread men. She did the baking, we both helped the kids cut out the dough, and then she and I sat and gabbed while they decorated.Another way to team up: create a cookie co-op. You and several friends pick a single kind of cookie or treat and bake a bunch, then trade. You get a variety of cookies without having to make them all yourself.
- Cheat. Just because your Aunt Matilda passed down a three-generations-old springerle recipe doesn’t mean you’re obligated to make it every year. Or maybe you make those heirloom cookies at night while your kids are asleep, then buy a bag of sugar cookie mix to bake with them so you can get to the fun part – decorating – faster. If your kids just want to frost and dust with sugar, you don’t even have to make real cookies (see my Babble post on graham-cracker “gingerbread”). Tradition and timeless recipes are wonderful, but only when you get real satisfaction out of making them. Don’t let something that should be joyful turn into a drag: if your life is too full or your kids are too little to pull it off right now, you can always try again in a year or two.
- Do what works. No need to reinvent the wheel every year. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stick to the things you know you and your kids will enjoy. If that means you turn out peanut butter blossoms or peppermint bark every blessed year, is that really such a bad thing?
- Forget the calendar. Yes, it’s December 16, and perhaps your to-do list between now and the 25th is a mile long. But who says you have to have all your baking done by Christmas Day? The way I see it, the holiday “season” lasts at least until the kids go back to school, or as long as you can milk it, whichever is longer. Why not spend some of those long afternoons during winter break baking? The kids will need something to do, and there will be less pressure after the “big day” is over. Plus, you can probably get some great discounts on holiday-themed cookie cutters and green-and-red sugar.
Remember, the best holiday memories you can give your kids include a happy mom! How are you taking it easy this holiday?
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