The Holidays are Coming…Ready, Set, SWAP!!!

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It’s mid-November, ladies.  Mid.  November.  Um, how did this happen?  Where did 2012 go? The holiday season is upon us, and here at Casa Aaron, we’re pretty pumped.

Before we were married, Handsome Husband and I talked extensively about creating new traditions together, particularly ones of the holiday-centric variety. In my completely improvised wedding vows, I promised him fifty Christmases.  And, as luck would have it, our first holiday season together came complete with a Currier & Ives-worthy snow on Christmas morning–I mean, an actual White Christmas!  We love picking out a Christmas tree as a family and making a day of decorating it while sipping on Egg Nog and listening to The Elvis Christmas album (on red vinyl, no less) and the Phil Spector holiday station on Pandora (you will thank me for this later).  I always make a homemade greenery wreath, we watch old holiday movies in rapid succession, and we bake goodies like there’s no tomorrow.  To say that we get into the holiday spirit is the understatement of the century.

Being one heck of a baker, one of my hands-down favorite holiday traditions is the Cookie Exchange. Back in 2009, my friend Ashley English, cookbook author and lifestyle blogger extraordinaire, invited me to my first Cookie Exchange. The event was hosted in her idyllic home on an 11-acre mini-farm complete with wood-burning stove, a chicken coop and Wellies piled at the back door.  The premise was simple:  1) Bake cookies, 2) Spend time with friends, and 3) Swap cookies.  I was in. I baked a big batch of Ginger Molasses Crinkles, grabbed my adorably giddy friend Clara and headed out to farm to take part in Ashley’s delicious holiday tradition.

Clara and I spent the afternoon drinking mulled wine, giggling until our faces hurt, stuffing ourselves silly with Ashley’s amazing cheese fondue and forging new friendships. (You can read all about it here.)  We listened as each lady introduced her cookie and why she chose to make them–tales of generations-old recipes and first-time baking debacles alike.  In the end, everyone took home several of each cookie.  To my son, it looked something like this: Mom left home with a tin containing Ginger Molasses Crinkles and came home with the same tin filled with 15 different types of cookie.  My son promptly nominated me for Mother of the Year.

For the next two years, I looked so forward to Ashley’s sugar soiree that I found myself looking for new recipes well in advance of Labor Day.  Our friend Jael, who happens to own the finest hand-crafted chocolate shop on the planet, made homemade Snickers bars one year. HOMEMADE SNICKERS BARS, people. Nicole, who admitted to not being much of a baker a few years ago, offered up Salted Oatmeal Butterscotch cookies that married salty and sweet in a way that is probably illegal in some states.  They were so good, in fact, that I baked two double batches using her recipe the following week to give away as gifts.

We moved to Phoenix from Asheville, NC this summer, and, short of jumping on a plane to travel cross-country at 8 months pregnant, there’s really no way for me to get to Ashley’s for her big event.  So, I’ve decided to adopt her tradition and make it my own–I’ll be hosting my fellow Scottsdale Moms Blog contributors for my very own Cookie Exchange this holiday season!  I’m so excited to share this simple, wonderful idea with them and create memories with a new group of women.  I’m planning to write a follow-up post in early December complete with pics from our little party and recipes for you to try at home.  Traditions have to start somewhere and I hope this inspires you to add a new one to your holiday repertoire.  Ready, set, SWAP!!!

What are your most treasured holiday traditions?

Any top-secret cookie recipes you’d like to share with other SMB readers?

Interested in hosting your own holiday Cookie Exchange?  Check out Ashley’s planning tips here and get started! 

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