Cowgirl (or cowboy) Cookies and Caramel Corn. All ready to go... BAM!

Cowgirl (or cowboy) Cookies and Caramel Corn. All ready to go… BAM!

Recently my daughter was invited to a couple of birthday parties and without sounding anti-crap-gifting and while acknowledging that I am BRAND NEW at this whole birthday party thang, I decided to set a few intentions for her gifting. And these were:

  • keep it simple
  • get my kidlet involved in the process
  • gift something that is unique
  • keep the costs reasonable
  • create the gift with my daughter
  • ensure the gift would be inclusive for the child’s family

I thought about this long and hard (for so many reasons) and ultimately I decided it is important to teach my daughter that she can make things that are worth giving. I mean seriously, if we can “pay” poor people in other countries to make us packaged, plastic things surely we make things too… right? And if not, then WHOOOOOOAAAAAA… let me off this cray-cray bus. Like, today.

To begin, this is my shout-out to Google for always being there when my ideas need a global search. (It still stuns me how much I use Google. How did I gather this information before?  Books??  Nah.) My first search was typed, “cupcakes in jars”.  Nononononononono! FYI, this is an actual thing, where people make cupcakes in jam jars and no, I don’t know why. All I know is, making a cupcake in a jar IS NOT EASIER (or even more pleasant to look at) compared to baking them in paper cups (or silicone, if you’re fancy). So without delay next I typed, “recipes in jars”. BINGO.

Thinking like a 3 year old, it was pretty easy to hone my recipe search. Though I don’t know exactly how a toddler thinks, I can almost guarantee that kids are not interesting in making or receiving bean soup mixes or spice rubs or salty foot soaks (huh, how did that get in the recipe search?). Toddlers like cookie recipes and anything popcorn (after all it is the forbidden, choke-able food that all toddlers CRAVE) . It was super easy to find loads of recipes and most of them come with easy-to-print instructions. And if the recipe you find doesn’t come with this, seriously keep looking until you find one that does. Unless of course you enjoy rewriting recipes, which I do not.

The next step is to pull out all those unused canning jars you have kicking around. Oh wait, I don’t have those (does anyone?). So really, the next step is to go to your local Home Hardware Store (that is what we have in our community) and buy a flat of litre jars. They will seem big, but actually it is a squeeze to get the all the food ingredients inside. After you have the jars and the other hardware crap you need, head to your supermarket… ours is No Thrills, No Frills. Only pick up what you need and remind your toddler how awesome shopping is (remember you have to bring your kid, this is something you are doing together).  There is a good chance she will forget and turn to howling down the aisles and asking for EVERYTHING. Shopping for jars and sugar and flour is inspired, no?

Once you are home, really start to sell this “gift project” to your toddler. I mean, give it all you got. Even go so far as to use it as a bribe if you have to. You know, “after you brush your teeth and get your PJs on, THEN we can make these SUPER DUPER FUN cookie jars for your friends!!!!!” Then once your angel is clean, excited, and standing on her/his step-up stool, let reality set in, keep your cool and recall that toddlers don’t really understand how to carefully layer dry items into jars and they definitely are not down with putting all the M&Ms into them. Ok, no prob. All that means is, you will be the one putting the jars together, while your toddler gets all sugared up on chocolate just before bedtime. Yay.

Don’t let yourself get all worked up though, because in the end the jars look fantastic and your kidlet is pleased and proud. And so are you. Suddenly you feel like the Pinterest Mom you’ve always wanted to be! Win-win! And to keep that feeling, make jar recipes your new signature gift. Be firm, say to yourself, “everyone is getting these, at least for the duration of 2014”. Remember no one is actually getting a hand sewn banner or a chalk paint thingymado. Gosh, I hope I’m not the only one who has thought, “oh I should make this for so-and-so and so-and-so… what a cute idea.” A confession: most of my Pinterest ideas, remain ideas, but are still diligently pinned onto the appropriate board, never to be deleted.

One final note: keep in mind this gift is heavy and breakable, so package accordingly (which I did not do).