Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Making Memories with a Christmas Cookie Exchange!

Once again, happy Monday to everyone!

If you’re new to this site and this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Laura (Pitzer) Emerich and I started this blog to honor my mom’s legacy as the ORIGINAL Secret Recipes Detective – Gloria Pitzer. Since the early ‘70s, Mom was “busting” the secret recipes of the fast food industry, as well as some “fine” restaurants and grocery products too! As I mentioned in my last blog, “Imitation”, Mom never really knew their exact recipes, but she could imitate them very well!!!

I’ve been writing these weekly blogs, about the many wonderful memories I have of Mom as I was growing up, since this past September. Shortly after starting these blogs, I decided to include one of Mom’s recipes with each one. For the 35-plus years that Mom “worked her business”, she offered (in exchange for a SASE) a sheet of free recipes, along with information on how to order her currently (at that time) available self-published cookbooks, as well as how to subscribe to her newsletters; which were published monthly in the beginning, then bi-monthly and quarterly until she permanently retired.

Five weeks ago, I shared another blog, “Time to Make the Cookies”, regarding cookies as they related to some of my memories of Mom, and including her make-alike version of one the Famous Amos cookies (with an alternative option.) Rather than repeating those memories, here, with these Mrs. Fields make-alike cookie recipes (below) that Mom also gave out for free (merely asking for proper credit when shared), I thought I’d write about making a new memory.

While surfing the internet around Thanksgiving time, I came across a Martha Stewart link, “8 Steps to Hosting a Cookie Swap”. I hadn’t participated in a cookie swap/exchange since my first two kids were toddlers (in the late “80s!) Anticipating the coming of “the final push” to get all my Christmas cookies made in time for holiday visitors and last minute gift-giving, I planned my first (hopefully annual) Christmas cookie exchange party with some of my girlfriends, who also hadn’t participated in any such event in a long time, if at all. While Martha’s ‘8 Steps’ was a great source of inspiration, I added some of my own ideas too!

I started (as in Martha’s ‘Step 1’) by inviting people. I created a private “event” through my personal Facebook page and invited about 18 girlfriends that were nearby and whom I knew (or thought) liked to bake and socialize (not to discriminate against my male friends who also enjoy baking, but the perk was for female bonding time.) Although, one friend’s “significant other” popped in to share some male bonding with my husband while all of us ladies “cackled” amongst ourselves; which was perfectly fine. Martha Stewart’s link suggested inviting up to 8 friends; but, having hosted other types of parties over the years, I knew that only one-third to half of invitees actually come. So, I invited 18 friends and about 8 people RSVP’d that they could come. Hindsight being foresight, next year, I will probably, also, “snail-mail” personal invitations because not everyone (in my generation) knows about Facebook created events; plus, it’s something tangible that they can hang on their refrigerator or calendar as a reminder.

On the event page, I asked everyone to post what cookies they were thinking about bringing (as in Martha’s ‘Step 2’), so we didn’t end up with 5 people bringing the same type. I suggested everyone bring 8 dozen cookies – no matter how many people actually come, I posted, if you bring 8 dozen of the same type, you’d be taking home 8 dozen of a variety. The more that come, the more of a variety there will be. I also asked that they post their recipe there, on the event page, (or email or text me a copy) so I could print out the necessary copies for everyone attending (instead of them making their own copies, not knowing how many copies to actually make.) However, only a few shared their recipes on the event page or texted me a picture of it in time for me to copy them for everyone.

Instead of making display cards or having everyone make multiple copies of their recipes on cards (as in Martha’s ‘Step 3’) for the cookie table, I bought little “brag books” from my local Dollar Tree store. I found and printed out a cute little cookie jar graphic to put in the cover’s picture window on each book. Then I printed out copies of the recipes that I had received before and at the party, inserting them into the pages of each book – for everyone to each take home from the party as a memento and, in which to continue collecting other cookie recipes.

On my party prep checklist, I forgot to list ‘creating a packaging station’ (as described in Martha’s Steps 4 through 7) for wrapping up all the dozens of cookies that everyone was going to take home. I was going to buy things at the dollar store for this; but I didn’t write it down and, then, was distracted by the crowd at the store, and just wanted to hurry and get out of there with my “brag books” and “door prize” picks. Fortunately, some of my friends must have anticipated this – one brought special Christmas trays on which everyone could to take home their cookies and some others pre-wrapped their dozens of cookies in decorative bags and tins for easy grabbing!

Not listed in Martha Stewarts ‘8 Steps’, but which occurred to me, is to serve snacks. Whenever I host anything (in-bred from my mom), I, at least, serve something to munch on – it’s always an ice-breaker! So, I decided to prepare a bunch of simple finger-food snacks for everyone to enjoy besides the cookie samples. Having hypoglycemia, myself, I knew I couldn’t snack on all that sugar and wanted to offer my friends the same option. One friend, who couldn’t make cookies in time for the party, but didn’t want to miss out on the “girl time”, brought a wonderful spinach dip and crackers for the “snack table” instead. All were welcomed, cookies in tow or not! Afterwards, I found that Martha Stewart did have a follow up to the ‘8 Steps’ regarding finger-foods to serve at your cookie swap – https://www.marthastewart.com/274426/holiday-cookie-swap-finger-foods

As everyone started showing up, I got wrapped up in setting up the snack table, making introductions between those who didn’t know each other and, of course, in the socializing. Thus, I forgot all about putting out the coffee, tea and punch that I had planned (Step 8); but I did have bottled water for everyone (thanks to my wonderful husband – who always has my back – as he brought in a cooler full of the iced-down bottles for all of us!)

Also, not listed in the “8 Steps”, I decided to offer a few “door prizes”. Martha did make mention of voting on a favorite cookie during the test-tasting, but I was debating between having a few cute, little shower-type games for us to play or just drawing a few names from a hat (or something like that.) In the end, because the socializing was going so well and I didn’t want it to stop, I just had my husband draw 3 names out of a bowl containing all the names of the ladies who showed up; and each of those 3 ladies went home with an extra little gift bag from me.

Unfortunately, it didn’t dawn on me until after my first friend left and others were getting ready to do the same that I should have been taking pictures of everyone and their wonderful baked goods! I did get my husband to take one picture of all of us before anyone else left, which I could immediately send to everyone through my Messenger App. Note-to-self: next time, delegate (in advance) someone to be “the photographer”, which wasn’t in the 8 Steps either! Anyway, I hope I created some special new memories for my friends. I know I will cherish the memories of that day, myself, flaws and all! In fact, I am really looking forward to doing it all again next year!

 Photo by Laura Emerich, Dec. 14, 2018

In the mean time, this is a picture of the cookie recipe I chose to make for my friends – my mom’s make-alike version of Mrs. Fields Soft Sugar Cookies – as printed on her later “Free Recipes/Information” sheets (2000) under the name “Mrs. Meadows”, along with her make-alike version of Mrs. F’s Crisp Buttery Cookies, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

*Special note: I used a 1/8-cup scoop to ball up my cookies and I had about 50 cookies. This recipe says it yields 2 dozen…it should be 4 dozen.

In addition, this is a picture of Mom’s 1985 version of Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies from her older “Free Recipes/Information” sheets, again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

Note: Unlike the previously shared “free” recipes in my blogs, the Mrs. Fields make-alike cookies I’ve included in this blog also appeared in some of Mom’s other previously self-published cookbooks and newsletters; but, they didn’t make it into her last cookbook [“Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective”, published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing).]