Cookie dilemma: to bake or not to bake

After Thanksgiving the past several years, I've been haunted by "the cookie monster." Not the furry creature from Sesame Street with the signature "C is for Cookie" song, but - รก la Scrooge - visions of Christmas cookies past.

Once, I began baking cookies the end of November and didn't stop for weeks - when I had created at least 500 Dream Bars, brownie bites, and marzipan strawberries.

I didn't consider all those hours in the kitchen as work. It was a joyous time. I would put stacks of Christmas records on the stereo and load the CD player with more. My face smudged with flour, I sang along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Bing Crosby.

My husband took several hundred cookies to work. Five dozen were reserved for the neighborhood cookie swap. And more ended up in my sons' homerooms and being given to friends who dropped by.

But I haven't taken on large-scale cookie-baking in seven or eight years - and I feel guilty.

I tell myself there's no longer any need for such baked largess: My husband works from home now, and my sons are on their own. I've taken on other projects that more than fill my spare time. As one of my sons put it on Thanksgiving: "Mom, when do you have time to bake cookies?"

Realistically, I know that I could find time if I made it a priority - and that I could bake only one or two batches of cookies.

When I recall the joy of singing Christmas carols as I formed sugar-cookie stars, I wonder if I ought to make the effort again this year.

Or if I should recognize that this was a pleasant activity that was right when I did it - but that I've now "outgrown" - and move on without regrets.

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