I love Christmastime. I love the decorations, the music, the cold weather, and the Hallmark Christmas movies (the most). And I also love any excuse to have friends over and eat cookies, so I decided to see if this year we couldn’t pull off a holiday cookie decorating party…because life wasn’t already busy enough and I love to plan things.
But also? I'm big on little traditions wherever you can find them. And our kids seem to love nothing more than when they have their friends over and get to do a craft (see: that time they decorated pumpkins together and we obviously nailed it.) But it's ironic, because when it comes to anything crafty or craft-adjacent, I need not apply. I’m one of the least crafty people I know and I’ve embraced that reality. But this was for the kids, and so I'll decorate and plan for a crafty experience all day long if I'm not expected to actually participate. Other than eating their creations, that is.
Sidebar: It does help if there's someone in your family who will actually be able to pull off a craft. It's not a necessity, but we found out last year that my husband will at least try to help tiny hands build a gingerbread house, and so it helps take the pressure off of yourself if you're not the craft master.
Ok, so let's get down to the details. Because even if you're a hot mess mama, you still love yourself a good step-by-step how-to.
The Step-by-Step Guide to Throwing a Real, Uncurated Mama Cookie Decorating Party.
First: Gather your supplies.
Krusteaz cookie mix
Colored icing (Amzon)
Paper plates (Dollar General)
Lots of sprinkles and decorations (Big Lots)
Plastic table cloth (Dollar General)
Take home cookie box (Target)
We'll go through the details of the above list in a second, but I'm a list girl, so I'm helping a mama out.
Next, in addition to the above essentials, there's the most crucial one: You will need some willing participants, also known as friends, who will indulge you while also not setting their expectations too high. It helps to strongly encourage that everyone show up in matching pajamas to make your husband feel pressured into matching you, just in case you guys haven’t had any marital friction in a while and are looking to spice things up!
Next, you’ll need some reliable boxed cookie mixes because, no, I do not need to be baking this shit from scratch. I’m a full time working mom who doesn’t even own a rolling pin, so I’m certainly not wasting my time making sugar cookies and gingerbread men when the experts at Krusteaz have figured it out for me!
Money Saving Tip: We had 6 adults and 9 children, decorated approximately 30-35 cookies, and I had some extra, un-decorated cookies to send home with everyone and even kept a few for ourselves. I used two boxes of gingerbread and sugar cookie mix.
Sanity Tip: Do not focus on whether your cookies hold an actual shape or not. Do not focus on the fact that you had a bunch of different cookie cutters and, yet, most of the cookies kind of just looked like amoeba blobs by the time they baked. Do not focus on the stuff that just doesn’t matter. That’s the most important step to throwing a cookie decorating party, or really any other party, for that matter.
Just invite some fun people who aren’t judge-y, eat lots of cookies, and have some wine on-hand. The cookies taste the same whether they look like an actual star or not, as it turns out. But Pinterest never tells you that and so you bake in silent shame.
NO MORE SILENT SHAME! These cookies were delicious and blobby.
Next, it helps to have an Amazon Prime membership and/or live within close proximity to a Target or Wal-Mart. It also helps to be a loser who will spend time comparing cookie icing prices online between all of those places and then make a drop-in visit to Big Lots to see if you can save an extra seventy-five cents. Amazon was the icing winner, Big Lots was the decorations winner.
Money Saving Tip: Again, we had 6 adults and 9 children, decorated approximately 30-35 cookies, and used about one of each of these jars of icing. And, as you’ll see below, the kids did not go light on either the icing or the decorations, so you shouldn't worry about running out.
Sanity Tip: If you read a bunch of blogs or spend too much time on Pinterest, you’ll think you need to have icing bags and a variety of colors. But no, no, no, mama – grab one or two of any combo of white, red, green, blue, and black – and you’ll be all set. Don’t over-think it. These are cookies that will be digested before you can even see what non-shape they were to begin with!
Next, if you have a large kitchen and/or a lot of table/counter space, or you're just kinda fancy, go ahead and follow the other blogs that recommend you place the drying cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Does this look visually appealing? Yes. Is it practical if kids are involved? NO.
So do what we did and have the kids put their drying cookies on paper plates, use a Sharpie to write their names on the plate, and make your life easier. Plus, nobody will be like, "Hey, that was my cookie! He took my cookie!" which would lead you to hate all of the kids in your house, plus yourself, for not thinking ahead about how you'd keep all of the blobby cookies separated.
Next, EAT YOUR ART!
Next, ask your husband to spend the next 20 minutes building a gingerbread house from the kit you bought at Target. And then, embrace the beauty of it all.
Lastly, make use of the closest Dollar Store or the sale bins in the front of any Target and pick up some cookie boxes to send home any uneaten cookies. I got 10 boxes for $2, which is not only thrifty, but also makes it easier on the parents who will later be asked where the cookies are while half-way home in the car.
And when you're all done, and the vacuum is on strike from the sprinkles, and your kids' sugar high has worn off, pat yourself on the back, mama. Especially when your daughter says, "I want to do that every Christmas for the rest of my life!"