Eight years ago I baked Christmas cookies with Jeanne, my Vermont mom. It was an all day afar and it made me forget my homesickness if just for one day. The cozy home feeling, the smell of cookies, and the love of a truly wonderful family who opens their arms to two girls they didn't know that well.

Well that was eight years ago and we've not missed a year since. Of course over time it's gone from two girls to one and sometimes friends join. But there's been one constant, me and Jeanne in the kitchen. We don slippers, aprons and baking hats. And we talk. And bake.

This year I met Jeanne for a hot yoga class before heading to her house for baking. After showering we enjoyed some butternut squash soup (Jeanne makes the best) and homemade brioche bread. It was heavenly. And I vented. Talking non the phone is not the same, whether it's texting or calling. We had so much to catch up on, work, friends, Boston, dating, etc.

Then we got to it. First up, identify recipes. This year we went with gingerbread men, creme de menthe bars, cranberry bars, and blondies. We also wanted to do snowballs (aka Mexican wedding cookies) but the dough needs to be chilled and I did not notice that.

We started with making the gingerbread dough because it needed to chill two hours. It was a boxed mix and I still managed to mess it up. Added too much water...whoops. Next up, creme de menthe because these require chilling as well. Usually we chill outside but it's not cold enough yet! These bars are basically butter and goodness. So delicious. This year we decorated with mini m&ms!!! Great addition.

Next we got to the cranberry bars with cream cheese frosting. Normally I'm more of a chocolate person but boy oh boy these bars have won me over. The first time we made them Jeanne said "I would eat a shoe covered in cream cheese frosting." I have similar feelings after these bars.

Then we banged out the butterscotch chocolate chip blondies. Super simple and the recipe is on any chocolate chip bag! Nestle Tollhouse. Can't beat that recipe, Phoebe from Friends agrees.

Last but not least we rolled and cut out our gingerbread men. There were a few amputations and casualties but the majority survived. And the dough is super fluffy and delicious. I love anything with ginger.

We finished right on time for dinner in Burlington. We were ON POINT today! Must have been the centering from yoga. Even if the baking didn't go as planned or flour erupted everywhere (happened one year) it would still be my favorite day. I'm so lucky to have this tradition. I'm so lucky to have my Vermont family. I hope the tradition continues for many years to come.