Lynn O’Grady, College Cookie Counselor, Bakes Up a Holiday Tradition
Lynn O’Grady smiles in her office while holding a platter of holiday cookies and her family cookbook.
O’Grady’s wreath and tree cookies (left) are the hardest to make because they require such attention to detail. Her frosted molasses cookies (right) are a favorite.
Those close to Westridge’s Director of College Counseling Lynn O’Grady like to joke that there are two types of people in her life: normal people and cookie-worthy people.
Ask any senior, and they can tell you that O’Grady tirelessly works day and night on all things college admissions, doing whatever she can to support Westridge students, and always with a pep in her step. The college admission season, which usually falls between September and February, is filled with student meetings, application deadlines, and college visits. O’Grady does all of this and even takes on another role during the holiday season: baker. Of cookies to be more specific—1,500 + of them.
The lucky family members and friends who are on “the list” receive as many cookie classics as they want, traditional family recipes that have been passed down in O’Grady’s family. There are over 10 types of cookies that she makes every year: cherry chip, peanut butter blossoms, and English toffee to name a few. “Once you get on the cookie list, normally you don't get off,” she described. Her fellow college counselor employees can be found awaiting the first cookies of the season and comparing their favorite types. “I give these cookies to people that are very, very special to our family,” O’Grady lovingly expressed.
You might wonder how O’Grady fits cookie-making into her busy schedule, especially considering that she makes four times as many cookies as each of the recipes calls for. It takes six to eight hours for her to finish each type of cookie. Typically, she spends a weekend making one type of cookie, then freezes them. The whole process can take weeks. “It’s a priority,” she revealed. “You make time for what’s important to you.”
O’Grady’s family has been making holiday cookies for decades. “This tradition started probably with my grandmother and her mother before that. It’s just a Christmas tradition that we celebrate, so I’ve been doing this my whole life,” explained O’Grady. Both of her grandfathers worked for General Mills flour company, and she believes flour and baking have been ingrained in her family forever. “I think traditions are super important, whatever they are for whatever family. I really value that.”
O’Grady began bearing the full baking load when her mother passed away 10 years ago. “We made a cookbook with my mom’s recipes when she passed. It’s called The Love in the Food.” She felt that it was important to archive this part of her family history. The cookbook commemorates O’Grady’s mother with recipes, poems, and photos of their family.
Baking continues to bring her family together around the holidays. Over the Thanksgiving break, her daughter Megan came home and helped O’Grady decorate her famous wreath and tree cookies.
Her nine-year-old grandson also loves to participate. “When my oldest grandson was six months old, I sat him in a little chair and talked to him all about the cookies and what we do,” she recalled. By now, he has inherited the baking gene. “He always wants to talk about the baking and he loves to bake with his mom,” O’Grady said. “You can pass these traditions down no matter how old they are, so that’s kind of fun.”
Cookies are O’Grady’s unique way of spreading love and cheer during the holiday season. “There’s just a lot of love in what you’re doing,” she shared. “Hopefully [people] feel the love right back at them when they get their cookies.”