Organized Chaos

I’m good at many things. Wrapping gifts is not one of them.

I’m not being modest. Look at that picture and you’ll know I speak the truth. I was never happier than when gift bags became popular. If I get some wrap around a gift with about a foot of scotch tape and slap a sticker on, I’m good. I used to do bows, but they looked so sad. I’m really being serious. It’s the worst thing about Christmas for me. But I turn on Christmas music really loud and that makes it bearable. This year I wrapped to Christmas music from Glee, and I got it all done yesterday afternoon.


One of the best things about Christmas is holiday baking and cooking. And I’m never happier than on my annual Grandchildren-Sugar-Cookie-Decorating Day. It is organized chaos at its best. There is colored sugar and pieces of dough everywhere. For days I find drips and drops of colored icing hidden in places where icing doesn’t belong. The cookies invariably turn out garishly but lovingly decorated, heavy on the colored sugar. This year I allowed the use of M&Ms, marshmallows, and chocolate chips.

The decorating was done in two shifts. The two little granddaughters came over early because they weren’t in school. Mylee is much more interested in eating the icing than in decorating the cookies, but she managed to complete a couple. Hers are the ones with the sugar only dumped in the middle. Kaiya, on the other hand, carefully arranged her chocolate chips. She insisted on using my heart cookie cutter as well. You can’t, after all, have too many pink hearts, no matter the season.

Later, the three older McLains came by (the little one had a dance lesson) to decorate.


Kaiya and Mylee watched. Addie led the show, or tried to. Her suggestions generally fell on deaf ears, particularly when it came to 7-year-old Dagny, who has a mind of her own. Even 8-year-old Alastair joined in, again ignoring Addie’s advice. “You can’t make a Christmas tree red,” she tells him. Wanna bet? I just stand back and make sure no one gets hurt.


At the tail end, while the others had moved on to hide-and-seek, Dagny carefully took her last Christmas tree shaped cookie, and poured all of the remaining icing over the entire cookie, decorated it with every last remaining M&M and chocolate chip, and grinned her little missing-teeth grin in total satisfaction.

I know there are a million sugar cookie recipes, and they’re all pretty much the same. But this is one I have used for years. I got the book, Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies, in 1972. I know this because I put my name and the date inside the cover. That means it has been assisting me in making cookies for over 30 years. Way to go Better Homes and Gardens.

Sugar Cookies

2/3 c. shortening
¾ c. granulated sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 egg
4 t. milk
2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1-1/2 t. baking powder
¼ t. salt

Thoroughly cream shortening, sugar, and vanilla. Add egg; beat till light and fluffy. Stir in milk. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; blend into creamed mixture. Divide dough in half. Chill 1 hour.

On lightly floured surface, roll to 1/8 in. thickness. Cut in desired shapes with cutters. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 about 6 to 8 min. Cool slightly; remove from pan. Cool on rack. Makes about 2 doz. cookies.

Nana’s Notes: At the bakery, my dad would sprinkle colored sugar on the cookies before he would bake them. That’s the easiest thing to do, but not nearly as much fun. The kids simply love cutting out the cookies, patiently waiting the 6 minutes or so for them to bake and the 5 minutes or so for them to cool, and then look out! No holds barred! Close your eyes and know that the mess will be cleaned up soon enough.

2 thoughts on “Organized Chaos

  1. This was a tradition in our house, too. The while family was involved. We had various colors of sprinkles, balls, and icing. It was an event we really loved!

  2. You should decorate some cookies with Carter and Kenzie. You could do it outside if it's warm enough. The scorpions need a change of pace, and they LOVE colored sugar. 🙂

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