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This year makes thirty-one years that two friends and I have spent a day in late November or early December baking cookies together. Somewhere early on, we dubbed it “The Cookie Bake” and it has continued for more than a quarter of a century. For weeks prior we search our recipe files, magazines and online recipes to choose the cookies we’ll bring to “The Bake.”

Last year we created a cookbook comprised of our favorite cookie recipes, personal essays, and tons of pictures. It was a big project, but so much fun to look back over our thirty years of baking together.

Now here’s the shameless self-promotion part!

If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind gift for someone who bakes, or loves to eat cookies, you can order a copy of The Heart Bakers. To quote my five year old grandson, “How cool is that?”We’ve received great feedback from last year’s recipients of the cookbook and wanted to share it with a broader audience.

Here’s how you can order one. There’s still time to make it a Christmas gift. Just follow this link.

 

And as a special treat, I’m including one of the essays I wrote for the book. It seemed especially appropriate given the focus of this blog.

Growing Old is Not for Wimps

I’ve been fortunate to know two remarkable women as role models when it comes to aging with grace, dignity and continuing passion for life. My mother, who died over twenty years ago at age 84, and my mother-in-law who is still very much alive and active, are my sheroes. My mother-in-law is fond of saying, “Growing old isn’t for wimps.” Of course when I started participating in the Cookie Bake all those years ago, I had no idea what the words meant. Not really. These days two of us are card carrying members of the Medicare gang, and proud of it. While we’re still in good health and great shape, the way we approach the Cookie Bake has changed.

Early on I was filled with boundless energy. It was easy to pack up the ingredients for the recipes I’d selected, along with the boxes of bowls, mixers, scrapers, cookie sheets and other assorted paraphernalia I’d need to bring my cookies into being. I’d load everything in the car and make the hour-long drive to Rebecca’s house. Neither snow nor cold nor icy roads deterred me. After all, I grew up in Wyoming, where learning to drive in snow is a rite of passage.

We’d stand all day mixing our recipes, portioning them out onto cookie sheets, jockeying for time in the oven, and then piling the finished products on cooling racks, talking and laughing nonstop.

Our tradition is to have nachos and beer somewhere in the middle of the day to give us a break and sustenance to finish. I always used to drink a beer and eat my fair share of nachos. I’m still good with the nachos, but not so much with the beer. Anymore instead of refreshing me, beer just makes me sleepy.

Gradually I began to notice my stamina wasn’t what it used to be. My legs and back grew tired from standing all day. I compensated by making dough for some of the recipes ahead of time. In fact, I think that’s when my affection for refrigerator cookies came into being. Sometimes I’ll even bake a whole batch or two and bring the finished product. Or I’ll bake the cookies and leave the final touches or decorating for the day of the Cookie Bake. Without really thinking about it, I realized I was selecting less complicated recipes.

At the end of the day after we’ve packed up our share of cookie bounty, cleaned the last bowl, loaded our things into the car, and said our goodbyes, we make our way to our respective homes. And because we don’t live in the same town, there is always an hour drive at dusk for someone, depending upon who hosts.

I’ve noticed the biggest change in my energy at the end of the day. I am literally done in. At home, I pile my boxes and bags on the counter, put away anything that must be refrigerated, and collapse into the nearest chair. I often have to close my eyes for a few minutes before summoning enough energy to do another thing. Truth is it’s closer to half an hour!

Perhaps the watchword of aging is change. In the Cookie Bake, as in life, I’ve had to become more flexible and open to adapting how I once did things. I’ve had to adjust my expectations. I wear more supportive shoes and make sure I get a good night’s sleep before the big day. I have to eat some protein to fuel me for the long day. I drink more water (and less beer!) I have to take more frequent breaks and allow myself to sit down. I’ve had to become more mindful about myself in the process, which come to think of it, isn’t such a bad thing at any age.

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