Clinica Sierra Vista WIC

Dear Reader

In my life I have had many titles – wife, mother, writer, and teacher – but, another one that I value is that of "Cookie Queen." When I lived in Fresno, five of my friends and I started a holiday cookie exchange over the years that evolved into quite the fine-tuned production. We even deemed ourselves "Cookie Queens" complete with matching aprons and a published cookbook!

At our party, we had 100-plus guests who brought six dozen cookies each to exchange with other partygoers. With an assembly line of more than 7,000 cookies, each person took samplings from the others' cookie gifts and filled up a heaping plate with everything from sugar cookies to biscotti to peppermint bark. In addition, we asked each guest to donate a toy for first-grade children at a local elementary school in need. I miss these parties. Unfortunately, the tradition stopped as our lives became more complicated and some of us moved away. But, the memories will last forever!

This party symbolized everything we have in our hearts during the holidays: creating traditions, spending time with family and friends, and serving others in need. Baking goodies to share with those we love is also a central element of the holidays.

Personally, sugar cookies are one of my most favorite treats not only to bake and decorate, but to eat as well. I've made my sugar cookies for a lot of different events in the shapes pertinent to the occasion – high-heeled shoes, musical notes, hippos – and for Christmas, I make them in the shapes of stars.

Speaking of cookies – I had the chance to meet with someone who knows a lot about baking delicious goodies, Jim Balmain, owner of Smith's Bakery. As the only certified master baker in Kern County, he was gracious enough to share some holiday baking tips in the article, "Cookies for Santa," on page 12. Also, you can check out some family cookie recipes from five Mothers, Shakers, and Community Makers: Assemblymember Jean Fuller, Christine Frazier, Superintendent of Schools, Lisa Krch, Channel 29, Robin Mangarin, KGET, and Sharon Kinney, John William University Law School and Magic Rabbit Productions.

"Nanny's Storytime" is a tradition that has graced our magazine pages for years, and we are sad to say that Joan H. Haskins is retiring her pen and this will be her last story for you. She leaves us with a great story on page 12, "Christmas Pennies for Pencils," about a little girl who wants to donate pennies to help build schools for children in other parts of the world.

Joan says she has loved writing for KCFM and hopes to have inspired her readers to make a difference. "I like to try to write stories that inspire children to want to do more with their lives," she says. "Isn't that ways life is really about? The love and service we can give." Thanks Joan for your many tenderhearted and heartwarming stories – you will be missed!

On a more comical note, Tracie Grimes's makes us laugh this holiday season with her Humor at Home article, "Chasing Away the Flus," on page 15. She writes about the frenzy around getting a H1N1 flu shot, and how this inter-species flu has created havoc in our lives. She says her Christmas wish list is simple this year: a swine flu shot.

Baking cookies, decorating the Christmas tree, attending holiday parties, and even getting the Swine Flu shot, are a small part of our holiday to-dos this year; so, during the stress of it all, don't forget to remember the season's true spirit: friends, family, traditions, faith, service, and compassion. Wishing you the happiest of all holidays!

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