With the meticulous precision of a sculptor and the care of a surgeon, Gerry Brunk dabs red and green icing onto sugar cookies.
Splendid stars made of icing the finishing touch.
Her cookies are transformed into delectable works of art with icing and sprinkles.
Brunk is a kitchen magician. Her Christmas culinary creations seem to vanish as soon as they are pulled from the oven.
Shes always embraced the holidays with a passion thats ingrained in a loving family-first tradition. Baking cookies is part of that.
Growing up on a farm in the Phoenix area, Gerry was the second youngest of 13 kids. She says everyone had a job to do in the kitchen.
And the house and kitchen were literally full of cooks.
My maiden name is Cook with an e (Cooke), Gerry says making another star of icing.
My mother was a wonderful cook, Gerry says without halting the icing duty. We all had things to do in the kitchen.
A green star is created on a Christmas tree-shaped cookie.
She took her moms lessons to heart and mastered the ways of the kitchen herself. Now 81, Gerry continues a community tradition of making cookies, pies and roasting a turkey for the Cortez Christmas Community Dinner.
For more than 20 years, she takes to the kitchen as Christmas approaches to add a sweet touch for the more than 700 people who will attend the dinner.
Its such a wonderful thing, she says about the dinner. Its just a nice place to go, and if youre alone its nice to be with other people who are in the same boat.
There are a lot of families who go to the dinner and its really nice that they have a place to go, she adds.
Volunteering and being part of the community is very satisfying, Gerry says. Its just part of being a good neighbor and a considerate, compassionate person.
Gerry has a genuine its-no-big-deal attitude about her contributions to the dinner.
Its really nothing. Im already making cookies to send to my family, she says.
Gerry also regularly contributes food to Graces Soup Kitchen and volunteers at Good Samaritan Center when shes not working three days a week as a personal care provider.
Gerry says shes a pretty good cook, thanks to Moms lessons and that big family. But when its time to strap on the apron, crank up the oven and dig into the flour and sugar, things can get a bit untidy.
My kitchen is a super mess, she says with a laugh.
Shes a good cook, but her housekeeping could be a little better, she says with another laugh.
I used to be better.
When it comes to baking, Gerrys Christmas cookie deliveries are a family tradition, as eagerly anticipated as any present thats slid under the tree.
Gerry makes the same cookies for both family and the Christmas dinner: Sugar, butter, chocolate chip and Mounds cookie bars.
And they go quick.
Gerry, who has lived in Cortez since 1977, says she likes everything about cooking and baking. Everything, including the envious duty of cookie tasting.
Oh yes, I have to sample them, she says. I just like food.
She doesnt have a favorite but says her chocolate chip cookies seem to be the fave of the family.
This year, Gerry had to scramble to get a batch sent off to her 12-year-old granddaughter Racheal in Jacksonville, Fla. before her birthday on Dec. 22.
Grandma always comes through. But there was one time when Gerry didnt send cookies. But it was only once.
One year I skipped and I was told about it, she says, so I havent missed since.
No more skipping. Cookies for Christmas, cookies made from Gerrys messy kitchen are just part of the holidays for this family.
As she makes another icing star on a sugar cookie, Gerry again says its no big deal volunteering her culinary talents to the community dinner.
But it is a chore. She makes hundreds of cookies a week or so in advance and packs them in her refrigerator. She makes a pair of pumpkin pies on Christmas Eve, and when most others have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, Gerry pulls herself out of her warm bed in the middle of the night to shove a turkey into the oven.
I wouldnt have it any other way, she says about helping out. Its very satisfying.
This year, with Christmas on Sunday, it will be a busy day. As a member of the Montezuma Valley Presbyterian Church, Gerry will have to join her fellow choir members for a quick rehearsal of the cantata at 9 a.m. with the performance to follow. So she has to get all the cookies, pies and roasted turkey dropped off before heading to church.
But its all worth the effort.
Its really special. They do such a great job with the dinner, Gerry says, giving credit to all the other volunteers and organizers.
The community dinner is truly a community effort with countless volunteers coming together, roasting turkeys, making fixings and goodies, and doing their part to make Christmas a special day for so many ... many who wouldnt have a special Christmas without the community dinner.
Like always, heaping plates of Christmas cookies will be part of the dinner. Sugar, butter, chocolate chip and Mounds cookie bars, made by Gerry Brunk.
No big deal, Gerry says, about doing her part.
What is a big deal, is that more than 700 people, many who have seen better days, will enjoy a special Christmas dinner provided by a caring community.
And as always, cookies from Gerry Brunks oven will quickly disappear, leaving behind only a few crumbs and a big batch of Christmas spirit.