That's How The Cookie Crumbles...

Last year, I felt like I got deprived of having a proper Christmas. The only ways I was able to celebrate the season last year was through my annual Cookie Bonanza and my yearly trip to the Christkindlmarket with Lisa. As a result, this year it was very important to me to be able to host my usual cookie exchange. When I didn't hold it last year, so many of my friends were disappointed that it felt like a top priority to be able to welcome them into my home in the name of cookies this holiday season.

Though it was only one week into the month, I decided to host my cookie exchange this weekend in the hope that it was early enough that my friends wouldn't be overly committed yet with other festivities. I even polled my friends to figure out the best time for everyone, which turned out to be a Saturday. It was, however, the first weekend of Hanukkah, so I made sure to start the party early enough in the afternoon that my many Jewish friends would be able to get their fill of cookies and still make it to their families in time to light the candles. I still ended up getting several last-minute cancellations due to illness and other emergencies, but I ended up with a group of ten for my fete, a respectable number nonetheless.

Without any prompting or meddling from me, my guests managed to bring a varied and diverse assortment of cookies. There were no-bakes, brownies, drop cookies, bars, and frosted cut-outs. They touched on a wide spectrum of flavors as well, including chocolate, mint, coffee, peanut butter, chai spices, and fruit. I really couldn't have planned it better myself, and it was certainly a contrast to my last cookie exchange two years ago, when there was a full-fledged mint chocolate zeitgeist and nearly half the cookies featured that flavor combination.

For my contribution, I was forced to scale back somewhat this year, because the party was on a Saturday instead of a Sunday, which left me less time to prepare. Normally I make a couple of different types of cookies and several savory entrees, but this year I stuck to one cookie, a cheese plate, frozen mini-quiche, and spanakopita that I had made a few months back and stored in the freezer. All three of those things could go together quickly, with minimal effort from me, and they would all taste good at room temperature.

For my cookie, I went with the carrot cake sandwich cookies that I made for the first time last year, and knew at once that they would be perfect for a cookie exchange. Not only is cream cheese frosting incredibly popular, the cookies would be unusual enough that I could be sure nobody else would bring something similar. As predicted, they were a huge hit.

It always warms the cockles of my hear to see my friends all in one place, getting along and mingling together, even though they come from different periods in my life, and they don't all necessarily know each other well. And it also makes me happy to have a mini-reunion with my high school friends. This year, Lisa, Sarah, Ashley, and Taryn represented Highland Park High School, and provided yet another reminder that we really don't get together often enough. I still love seeing those girls, even a decade after graduation.

Traditions and togetherness are my two favorite things about the holidays, so it meant a lot to me to be able to honor both this holiday season by reinstating my yearly cookie exchange. The treats may be the ostensible focus, but for me, they are just an excuse to bring my friends together. Now that Just and I thoroughly settled into our home together, I look forward to many more years of surrounding ourselves with loved ones, good food, and good times.

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