Giving something you have baked or prepared in your kitchen is second nature for many Blair people. These bakers are already working in November to make the holidays heartwarming for their friends, family and even strangers.
Myrna Heyden’s friends have come to expect a homemade gift from her. Neighbors and friends, pastors and staff at her church, Country Bible, all receive food from the baker at Christmastime.
Once November comes, Heyden keeps busy in the kitchen preparing her treats that she says are all very easy to do. Many of them can be frozen until it’s time to give them away.
She likes to give away individual loaves of sweet bread — cranberry and poppy seed — and can bake nine loaves at a time on one oven rack.
“The poppy seed recipe is actually a cake recipe that is supposed to be made in a bundt pan,” Heyden said. “I can get quite a few loaves out of this.”
She spreads the poppy seed loaves with a glaze made with orange juice.
Orange cookies that contain candy orange slices and mint chocolate chip cookies are also popular ones she gives away.
Heyden likes to make “puppy chow” and a baked oyster cracker mix that uses oil and dry ranch dressing.
Heyden said she has given her food gifts for at least 10 years. She enjoys getting recipe ideas from different magazines.
However, she doesn’t eat many of her baked gifts because she has “gone gluten free,” Heyden said.
Embroidering fruit designs on white flour sack tea towels and wrapping them around plates of homemade goodies are things Bev Soderberg enjoys doing for others.
With a Swedish and Danish heritage, Soderberg likes to use recipes from her mother Bernett Momson: Swedish spritz, Russian tea balls and refrigerator cookies, rosettes and thumbprints.
She likes to give away cookies at Christmas to friends and First Lutheran Church staff members. But that’s just the December gifts.
Soderberg probably bakes for others two days a week the rest of the year. She says she tends to bake often but not in large quantities.
“I make sugar cutout cookies for every season,” Soderberg said. “I like to give them to people for their birthday. I make chocolate chip for daily use.”
“I always serve peanut brittle year-round,” she said, whether it’s for bridge parties or other gatherings. “I make it the old-fashioned way: no microwave. You stir it until it’s the right color.”
She likes to give treats to people who may need a little “pick-me-up” or who may be having company, Soderberg said.
“I think giving is so important, not only at Christmas, but the whole year-round,” she said. Baking just happened to be one of her gifts, she said.
The former Blair teacher said when she was working and visiting her mother, her mother often sent food or cookies home with her.
“I found myself doing the same thing for my kids,” Soderberg said.
Local people working the Christmas Eve shift may notice some goodies delivered to their door.
Connie Abbott and Linda Harkey organize a Christmas cookie giveaway involving many bakers from the Blair United Methodist Church. Families are asked to give two to three dozen cookies to the project.
“It has become such a big event,” Abbott said. “We get 100 dozen or more cookies.”
Volunteers meet in the afternoon Dec. 23 at the church to plate and wrap platters of cookies.
“Congregational elves” deliver them on Christmas Eve to people who are working at care facilities, Memorial Community Hospital, police and sheriff offices.
“The feedback is so heartwarming,” Abbott said. “They are glad to be recognized for what they do.”
“It’s a really good feeling,” Abbott said. “It’s a pretty little gift to give. It is appreciated.”
Last year’s elves gave away 35 platters on Christmas Eve.