Fun Christmas Party Ideas: Cookie Exchange

Christmas cookie exchange partyA Christmas cookie exchange is one of those fun Christmas party ideas that puts everyone in the holiday spirit. Hmmm, could it be because you leave with dozens of cookies to eat and lots of new recipes to try?

I have to admit, I had an ulterior motive to hosting my first Cookie Exchange. I like baking cookies, but don’t have the patience to bake more than one or two varieties. Hosting a cookie exchange would guarantee me lots of different kinds of cookies, and enough to last through the holidays!

The idea is pretty simple. You invite friends and ask them to bring cookies. Lots of cookies. Enough cookies to give half a dozen or a dozen to everyone attending. As the hostess, you get to set the rules (number of guests, amount of cookies to bring, how to package them, etc.) and you should communicate this information in your Christmas party invitations.

There are different ways to do it, but I invited eight guests, and asked each guest to bring eight-dozen cookies, all the same kind. It sounds like a lot, but most of my guests agreed that it was a lot easier to double or triple a single recipe than to make dozens of different kinds. Adding to the fun, I also asked each guest to create a recipe card for the cookies they made, and to bring enough copies for each guest to take home.

My guests arrived with large boxes and trays of cookies, and we set them all around my table. I provided each guest with an empty holiday cookie tin and wax paper for layering. (Lined boxes or plastic containers would also work.) We shared wine, hors d’oeuvres, and funny cookie-baking stories, but the highlight of the evening was parading around the table, filling up our cookie tins.

I expected the Christmas spirit, but was surprised by the feeling of sisterhood that developed. It felt like an old-fashioned quilting bee, where the women of the village join forces to create something we could never have done on our own. Everyone went home happy, with eight different kinds of cookies, a tin to keep them fresh, and recipes to try next year—in short, a very successful, very satisfying party.

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National Night Out – meet your neighbors

National Night OutAre you planning a National Night Out event in your neighborhood? For 2011, National Night Out is August 2. This event is a great way to get to know your neighbors and connect with those you may want to get to know a little better. Since we’re all about connecting, at Pear Tree, we love events that bring us closer to people.

It’s always a good idea to forge a connection with your neighbors, but why only once a year? There are plenty of other occasions and neighborhood party ideas to get together throughout the year. In my neighborhood, we receive party invitations to events all year round. Some we attend, some we don’t, but there is always something going on.

  • In the spring, one family always hosts an Easter egg hunt for the kids.
  •  We’ve had a “clean up the park” party to which we all bring garbage bags and gloves, and pick up litter in the local park, followed by coffee and donuts or bagels or something simple at someone’s house.
  • Enterprising neighborhood teens have taken it upon themselves to decorate the basement of the nearby church as a haunted house at Halloween and charge admission to raise money for a cause.
  • We’ve gathered in support of a neighbor with cancer, had parties where donations were collected, organized cook-a-thons where we froze dozens of meals and stored them in freezers to drop off later, or held a silent auction to raise money for a family dealing with huge medical bills.
  • We’ve gone to progressive parties (appetizers at one house, main course at another, dessert at another) sometimes to celebrate a completed remodeling project or to show off our gardens and share ideas.
  • Around the holidays, in addition to the usual parties and open houses, we put on a cookie exchange, during which we exchange recipe cards along with cookies.
  • In January or February we gather at the park for an ice skate and hot chocolate.

Getting to know your neighbors is highly rewarding. Not only does it make your neighborhood safer, but also a more enjoyable place to live. It’s as simple as sending out party invitations.

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Summer recipe exchange

Summer recipe cardsAs the seasons change, so does my cooking. I have favorite winter recipes and favorite summer recipes and, just as I look forward to putting away the sweaters and getting out the shorts, I look forward to grilling outside and taking advantage of the fresh fruits and vegetables that summer brings. I also look forward to summer potlucks and spending long balmy evenings on decks and patios with friends.

Everyone has their favorite, go-to recipes to bring to neighborhood get-togethers and family picnics. If your signature dish is a perennial crowd pleaser, the party host may even request it by name! We all love finding new recipes to try, especially ones that are easy to make and bring along to a party. But how many times have you been asked for a recipe and never got around to sending it? Or just as often, you’ve asked for someone else’s recipe and never received it?

Wouldn’t it be great if at your next summer gathering, everybody brought copies of their recipe to share along with their dish? It’s easy to make copies of recipe cards. They don’t have to be elaborate. And just think of all the benefits. Not only would you walk away from the party feeling great about all the compliments you got, you’d have lots of fresh new recipes to try at your next summer cookout. It’s a fun way to share a little of yourself and make a party memorable. And if it’s a big hit, why not try it other times of the year? Just think of all the wonderful recipes you could share during the holiday season!

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