The phrase adorns the dining area of Kim Beaudin and Nancy Girouard’s cozy home in Lewiston. Their love of family and friends, evident throughout their home, is perhaps the root of their family’s Christmas tradition, “Cookies and Cocoa.”
Beaudin began the tradition in 1997 and since then, her family has hosted the event, featuring dozens upon dozens of homemade holiday cookies and candies, cocoa, and eggnog. Guests are invited to bring containers to fill and take home at the end of the evening.
“The only rule,” said Beaudin, “is all guests must bring a child. If you don’t have a child, you can ‘borrow’ one,” she laughed. “One year we ‘broke’ the rule and let someone bring a baby doll because her kids weren’t home that night!”
According to Beaudin, children must also be permitted to try whichever and however many cookies they please. After all, it is a special occasion made even more so by serving on fancy platters and using a crystal punch bowl for the eggnog.
All the evening’s cookies are made by Beaudin with some help from Girouard, their children, and sometimes some of their children’s friends who just want to be part of the fun and preparation. Beaudin takes some vacation days prior to the event to make all the treats. Everything is freshly made; nothing is frozen. Her specialty is the baking; Girouard makes the candy which includes peanut butter balls, date balls, and dipped pretzels.
“The kids help decorate the sugar cookies,” said Beaudin, who admitted it is her least favorite part of the preparation. Her daughter, Sadie, was six when she first began to help. Today, Beaudin said her youngest daughter, Eliza, now a freshman at Hebron Academy, makes better oatmeal raisin cookies than she does.
Beaudin recalled the first “Cookies and Cocoa” featured 10 to 12 dozen cookies and welcomed eight guests. In recent years, Beaudin and her crew have made more than 900 cookies for the evening.
Every year frosted sugar cookies, date pinwheels, and peanut butter blossoms make an appearance; “everyday cookies” — including chocolate chip — don’t make the cut.
Every year Beaudin tries new recipes. Some are hits, others are “flops” she admitted. She has tried 50 to 60 recipes over the years including meringue chocolate chip and lemon coconut — both flopped — and chocolate crinkles, now a favorite with Sadie, but a flop the first year.
Two of the most creative but time-consuming creations were 3-D Christmas tree sugar cookies and gingerbread people in bikinis. According to Beaudin, the gingerbread people were so funny and well received that they’ve made the scene every Christmas since, regardless of the weather!
Recipes come from everywhere, but Beaudin’s favorite resource is her grandmother’s cookbook, “The New Hood Cookbook – A Modern Cookbook of Practical Recipes,” original copyright 1939. Well-loved, the book’s spine is ragged and its pages yellowed and dog-earred.
The inside covers feature personal, handwritten recipes including those of the true baker in Beaudin’s grandmother’s home, the housekeeper, Louise Record. It is Record’s pinwheel recipe that Beaudin uses every year.
Beaudin’s love for baking did not come from her grandmother who Beaudn said never cooked.
Although “Cookies and Cocoa” is a tried-and-true tradition in their house, it enjoys new twists each year.
“One year we had an international cookies theme with recipes of cookies from all over the world. Other years, all the kids went home with the ingredients for “snowman soup” or a bag of “reindeer dust.”
Taking center platter this December is an Air Force plane sugar cookie made in honor of family friend, Eagan Nadeau, one of the kids who grew up with “Cookies and Cocoa.” Although he is currently on an Air Force mission, location unknown, Beaudin hopes to send him some of the cookie “booty” this year.
The tradition keeps going strong into Christmas season 2014. Beaudin is guessing “Cookies and Cocoa” will take place on Monday, Dec. 22, this year. All the family helpers will be on hand; they began asking for the date in October.
The fun is infectious. Oldest daughter Sadie has a friend who is planning her boyfriend’s homecoming around “Cookies and Cocoa” so he can take part.
“They wouldn’t let me do this without them,” laughed Beaudin. “I don’t think they will ever let me stop.”
Eliza admitted getting very upset one year when her mom said she might not host the event.
“We always have it,” said Eliza unbendingly. “You just can’t have a holiday without it!” She said she will take over the tradition when Beaudin decides to give it up.
So the tradition holds fast despite the weather and time. Beaudin remembers the year guests came despite a blizzard and the leftover cookies were taken to Hope Haven. Another year, the last batch of cookies rolled out of the oven as the first guests arrived. Once they even hid the dirty dishes in the oven in order to greet their guests with a party-ready reception!
In their home and among their friends and family, “Cookies and Cocoa” has become one of life’s constants, something you can count on. Among all the other holiday traditions and trappings, it’s heartening to know that the simple act of sharing a cup of cocoa and a cookie can bring such comfort and joy.
Was told you’ve been real good this year,
Always glad to hear,
With freezing weather drawing near,
You’ll need to warm the spirit.
So here’s a little Snowman Soup,
Complete with stirring stick.
Add hot water. Sip it slow.
It’s sure to do the trick.