COOKIES

Cute for school!

Cute for school!

SUGAR COOKIES!  I love (and hate) to make them!  Let’s face it, iced sugar cookies are time consuming.  I don’t care if you are the best expert in the world.  These labors of love are well, laborious!  The baking part is simple enough, but the icing!!!  The icing is a ROYAL (get it) pain in the butt.  The key to icing these is to get the right consistency. I am lazy and just do what they call the “20 second icing” method.  I don’t usually outline with a stiffer icing and then flood with a thinner icing. I am too darn tired by the time I have all the icing colors ready to go.  I get all my inspiration from http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com, including her yummy recipes, so be sure to visit her blog.  She is amazing and has tutorials and such on icing the cookies, and lots of tips and tricks.  I would like to share some mistakes I have made when making these cookies, so here are some things to avoid!  Don’t be like me and frustrate yourself to no end!!

Spa Party Cookies

Things to avoid:

1. If you are new at this, I urge you: do not bake and try to ice the cookies the same day! You will be tired after baking and mixing the icing, and then you will just be “over it” and when the first few don’t turn out that great you get mad and throw in the towel.  You are just tired.  Best to bake one day, and make the icing and decorate them the next.  Trust!  Your feet will thank me.

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2. If you have never made these before, do not pick the hardest design you have ever seen.  Pick a simple design, one that you are confident you can tackle!  Everything looks easier on YouTube and Facebook…e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!  I loved how these turned out.  I made red the year before, and decided to do them in pink the next time around.

A labor of love!

A labor of love!

3. Use tumbler cups to put your icing bags in, it keep your frosting bags upright. Put a very slightly damp paper towel in the bottom to prevent your tips from drying out and clogging up.

I was too tired to make different colored lego cookies.  Good thing yellow is my son's favorite color.

I was too tired to make different colored lego cookies. Good thing yellow is my son’s favorite color.

4. Be sure you have mixed the icing really well, or you will get these lovely clumps that will block your frosting tip.  Also, when you use the tip above about the paper towel…use a slightly damp (not too much or the icing gets wet and can do weird things) paper towel in the bottom of the cup you rest your frosting bags in.  It is very frustrating when you are rolling along, and all of a sudden you can’t squeeze anything out of your icing tip!  Do not squeeze the bag super hard, it will pop and frosting will ooze out everywhere…I have done this…it was not a good day.  The one thing that has worked for me is to place the tip under super hot water.  It melts the blockage and you will be able to continue.

Peeps!  Be sure to put the sugar on very soon after icing so it sticks but not too soon that it sinks.

Peeps! Be sure to put the sugar on very soon after icing so it sticks but not too soon that it sinks.

5. Be sure to mix enough of the color you need.  It is really really really really hard to match color if you run out.  Maybe it is just hard for me, but if you are a beginner, unless it’s white icing, be sure to mix enough of the color for your project.

Have fun with it!

Have fun with it!

6.  Not all baking sheets are created equal!  I have different types of cookie sheets, they all bake the cookies at a different rate, so watch your next batch if it is on a different sheet, guaranteed you will have some dark edges if you don’t adjust the baking time.

Just a few details with the white icing make these gingerbread men and women really cute.

Just a few details with the white icing make these gingerbread men and women really cute.

7. Circles are hard!  Yup, I said it.  I have been baking all sorts of different cookies for a long time, but for some reason, I can’t outline a circle very well!  It is easy to see the mistakes, so maybe don’t choose a circle shape the first go-round.  I was trying to teach someone how to do these for the first time with these here baseball cookies…it was a bit frustrating for her I think.  Even I did not have the patience that day…I baked and frosted the same day…shame on me!

Baseball cookies

Baseball cookies

8. Consistency is key!  I try for that “20 second icing” method, so I only need to mix one bag of icing color and not outline piping, and flooding icing.  Things can go really wrong if you add too much water.  Go very slowly.  Sugarbelle even suggests using a spray bottle to add just the right amount.  If you go too far, the icing will sag right off the cookie and take forever to dry.  You can sometimes remedy this by adding more powdered sugar, but then you have to take it out of the bag and start all over…I have done this too…no fun.  I made these here cookies for my sister’s 30th wedding anniversary, and the black “L” icing was way too stiff.  I was air brushing and icing, and my other sister was in town for the party, and again, I was tired.  See tip one, again…I do not listen to my own advice.  I will never learn!

Anniversary Cookies

9. Be sure you have lots of number #2 and #3 tips.  You will need many.  I use disposable icing bags because I don’t bake these all the time.  It saves me from having to wash them out each time I use the bags.  I would go crazy and never bake them again if I had to wash out icing bags.

Storm Troopers

10. Have fun and don’t be too critical.  We can be our worst critics.  They are only cookies, yummy ones, and they will be eaten quickly. Once they are all on the plate they look really nice, so don’t let the OCD in you win out.  Everyone will love them, and you will then be asked to make thousands of them for people who do not want to pay you for them.  Beware!  🙂 And watch out for carpal tunnel symptoms!

Father's Day Ties

Father’s Day Tie

The trick is to give them away fast, so you don’t eat too many!  I actually prefer them without the icing.  The Sugarbelle recipe calls for almond extract and powdered sugar, and it is really delicious!  I hope you try them if you have been really wanting to.  I would love to see your creations!

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Burlap & Fabric Paint

Summer has taken a toll on my craft time. Trying to keep the kiddos happy is a busy business. I did manage to fit in one craft that I think you will like. I was perusing through Michael’s and found a three pack of burlap canvas http://www.michaels.com/search?q=burlap%20canvas that was reasonably priced, especially when using that coupon they give you from your last trip (to get you in there again the following week, very smart Michael’s). I had seen a very cute burlap canvas of a mason jar with a cute saying on it on Joss & Main http://www.pinterest.com/pin/568438784189714971/ but it was way too expensive. Isn’t that always the way it goes. You really like something, but you just can’t pay that much for it? So, being the resourceful person I am, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create one I liked myself.

Here is my version:

When Life Gives You Lemons

When Life Gives You Lemons

Close enough for me! I was kind of down-in-the-dumps over something that happened and I needed a cheerful sign to cheer me up. This was just the one, but no way was I paying a lot of money for it. Silhouette machine to the rescue! I purchased the mason jar, and the lemon on Silhouette, and adapted the design to my liking. I just used fonts I had on hand to complete the saying. The two shapes were .99 cents each (but even cheaper really, because I have a subscription). The burlap was on sale, and with my coupon it equalled something like $7.99 for three panels. I used some regular vinyl for my stencil. Carefully weed out what you want to be on the canvas. Is that the negative image? I just made sure it was really well adhered to the canvas to prevent as much bleeding as I could. Then I used a little bit of black fabric paint (go over it and let it dry about three times). Then carefully remove the vinyl, and you are done. I used a frame that I had on hand that I rotate sayings in all year long. The canvas is a bit thick, so be sure to find a frame that can manage it. I took the glass out in order to fit mine. Hope you like it. If you have a Silhouette, you really need to try a stencil and some fabric paint on canvas, it is really kind of fun! If I was an artist I would just free-hand it, but no go there. I hope you try it soon.

I just love the burlap and black ink.

I just love the burlap and black ink.

Creative people need to know about this website!

I recently found out about the website http://www.creativelive.com. Maybe I have been in a cave somewhere, but wow, this website is amazing. They offer video classes on all sorts of creative subjects. It covers anything from cake decorating, to photography, to how to start your handmade business, Photoshop, scrapbooking, and on and on. You can tune in to the live broadcast for free, which is not always convenient, but you can also buy the class and watch it whenever you want. If you do catch a live broadcast, you can chat with others in the chat room during the live presentation. You can now make a wish list of classes that you may have missed, and it keeps the list for you to come back to when you are ready to purchase. Many classes come with a workbook that you can download, and even the free class broadcast may offer some free information you can download. Anyway, it can be a really valuable tool for you to learn something new, or improve your business, or photography, or whatever. If you have ever taken a class at CreativeLive, I would love to hear about your experience. Recently, I tuned into Kari Chapin’s “Start a Handmade Business” class when it was live, so it was free. It was three days of packed information. I missed a bunch of it, but what I caught was a really wonderful class, full of tips and information. She has a book on this entire subject as well. Check it out, you may find a class you are interested in.

Tote bag and Zipper Pouch

ReversibleTote
Have you seen the website http://www.crafsy.com? It is awesome. It has a lot of tutorial videos on how to sew and makes stuff. It gives you step-by-step instructions on how to make several things, and some tutorials are free. I stumbled upon a tote and zipper pouch free video, and wanted to try it out. I really need practice with zippers especially!

If zippers confuse you do the zipper pouch so you can practice. She uses a glue stick technique to keep the zipper aligned without dealing with pins that I found so helpful.
Zipper pouch
She also gave a tip when making a boxed bottom and how to put the pin through the seam so you know it is all lined up. It made sense when I saw the video. Now in the video she wasn’t using a one-way pattern like myself, and I guess I should have turned my Russian dolls the other way, but oh well, ya live and ya learn. I really did learn a lot about basic sewing during this tutorial. I have sewed before, but not often and never consistently, so this was a good project to start with again.

Lots of fun stuff on there, as well as paid classes. I think I will work my way up to doing the free quilt block class out of old t-shirts. That class looks like a fun way to preserve those shirts that you love, or that your kids wore, and it keeps the memory of them around. We shall see, but I do know I need a lot more practice at my sewing.

Dressed up Burp Cloths

Dressed up burp cloths make a great gift.

Dressed up burp cloths make a great gift.

I am still on the baby kick, so I thought I would add to my little onesie gift and make some embellished burp cloths to go with them.

There are a ton of blogs that have a tutorial on this. I like this one: http://goodbadcraftyblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/custom-burp-clothes.html

Just be sure to measure your diaper so you cut your fabric right (the size can vary a little bit), and wash the diapers and the fabric first before you begin. Sometimes I think that is the hardest part about sewing anything. I just want to dive in, but there is always washing, and cutting involved. I do know that I would have loved to have these when I had my kids. Just adds some cuteness to it, and it becomes a little more special, because someone customized it for you. You could make the fabric portion wider or thinner too, up to you. There is no right or wrong. I just kept it with the seams in the diaper.

Try them out, very simple. I did use a zigzag stitch, but you do not have to. You can just use a straight stitch. Be sure to stitch close to the edge, and use white bobbin thread (the back is white), and what ever color thread to match your fabric, so your mistakes show less (if you make mistakes). I know I always make plenty of sewing mistakes, and I rarely sew in a straight line, so matching the fabric is a must for me. I am getting better, but I don’t sew all that often. This is a great project for a beginning sewer. Have fun, and choose fabrics that you love!

Easter Treats

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Easter is almost here.  I made some chocolate cookies for a friend and decided to dress them up a bit (in non-traditional colors) with a bunny http://www.silhouetteonlinestore.com/?page=view-shape&id=26469.  I cut out on my Silhouette machine.  I also did a print and cut “hello friend” label called: “little things soup label” http://www.silhouetteonlinestore.com/?page=view-shape&id=45979. Don’t forget to add a tail (with a glue dot), and some baker’s twine, and your gift is ready to go.  

In case you are wondering about the recipe, I got it here: http://www.marthastewart.com/316883/grammys-chocolate-cookies.  Actually this recipe can also be found in the “Martha Stewart’s Cookies” book, which I love!  It has a picture for every cookie, just like the Food Network Magazine does with each issue.  I love the visual.  It gives me confidence if I know what my end result is supposed to look like, and hopefully if the look is right, then the taste is right too.  I am attempting to try as many of the recipes in the cookie book as possible.  I have made about 18 of the recipes so far, and I only had a problem with one being too sticky.  For this recipe, I recommend separating the dough into two, and storing it in a flat disc in the refrigerator until ready to roll into balls.  If it starts to get too sticky just put it back in the refrigerator for a while, or the freeze for a bit to get it to stay together.  The sugar crystals that you roll the dough in makes this cookie glisten and gives it a special crunch.  All ovens vary, but mine took about 16 minutes per batch.  This recipe makes about 2.5 dozen.  Try them out!  

Heart Lace Cookies

Heart Lace cookies inspired by www.sweetsugarbelle.com

Heart Lace cookies inspired by http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com

Have you ever come across a blog that just blows your mind? Well when I found http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com I just could not believe my eyes. She makes the most lovely decorated sugar cookies. And she has made many many many of them. I am no where near as good as her and here is her version of a lace cookie: http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/2012/01/piping-lace-on-cookies/ Just beautiful. I don’t have the patience to use a push pin to plan out my design, and I don’t usually get my frosting consistency correct, but when I saw those I had to try to make some. She had some red hearts too, but I couldn’t find the page in her 65 pages. Her cookies are of course, way more clean and perfect, but I had to try it. You can also see an example of them in a circle shape in beautiful jewel tones and in black and white that you could use for any occasion. I free-handed my designs, which is why they are not as perfect. I also used her recipe that you can find on her site for sugar cookies, and royal icing. I had always used Martha Stewart’s before. I really liked the almond extract flavor way better than vanilla, and the real bonus was that you didn’t have to chill the dough. I was super skeptical. At first I thought it would never work and it would be sticky, but nope, it actually worked. I used some flour and it rolled out just fine. So if you ever see something you are dying to try, by all means try it. At least I know what I will do differently next time. Overall I am really happy with the end result. They are a labor of love, but your guests will appreciate them. And they taste as good as they look. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Christmas Cookies!

Christmast Cookies with royal icing

Christmast Cookies with royal icing


I am a little crazy about Christmas cookies. My Mom used to make them with me when I was little, and now that she is gone, I always think of her when I make them.

My favorite recipe for the basic Christmas sugar cookie is the Martha Stewart Basic Sugar cookie recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/338471/basic-sugar-cookies
and her simple royal icing recipe:
http://www.marthastewart.com/316888/royal-icing-for-sugar-cookies

The trick, I think, is to leave the cookie dough in the refrigerator overnight. Then let it get warm enough in your hands to shape it into a ball to roll out. Use flour to keep it from sticking on the rolling pin.

Pre-frosting

Pre-frosting

I also use a piping bag for each color of icing. I put a wet paper towel into a tall cup and when I set the tip into the cup it keeps the tip from getting dried out and clogging.

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Get the consistency just right and it will all be well. My white icing this year was a little too runny. Try and get it to where it will easily pipe onto the cookie, but not run down the sides. I use the tip to help spread the icing out. The great thing about royal icing is that it dries and you can stack cookies on top of each other after they have dried overnight. You may think they are dry enough after an hour or so, but the weight of the other cookies might cause indentations in your works of art, so just keep them in a single layer overnight, and avoid that. It’s like when you mess up your freshly painted manicure. So frustrating. I don’t think this icing is particularly as tasty as buttercream icing, but you cannot really package buttercream frosted cookies without a big giant mess in the box or tin. Always a price to pay for looks. But some people love this icing. It’s also fun to get new decorations or cutters once in a while to change things up, and finding the right container helps dress them up even more.

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

Sprinkles!

Sprinkles!

Even blue works!

Even blue works!

These cookies take patience, and practice, and may give you carpel tunnel, but they always put a smile on the face of the receiver. I hope you made some yummy treats this year!

Caramel Apples

Crimson Gold Apples

Crimson Gold Apples


Looking for an inexpensive and festive Fall gift that most anyone would love to get?  Here it is…yummy goodness awaits:
Crimson gold Organic apples

Crimson Gold Organic apples

I made the mini apples for a class Halloween party. They were so darn cute and small I had to do it. They are very much like a Fuji Apple. I found them in the organic section in a bag of about 20 for $2.49 for the bag.

My friends came over and help me make these Big Daddy’s!

Big Daddy's!

Big Daddy’s!

Very simple all you need are some apples, water, caramel, good chocolate, such as Guittard, shortening, crushed Heath Bars, and wooden sticks.

Wash the apples in hot water and rub dry, trying to get off any wax so the caramel will stick better. Follow the directions on the caramels package, I used Kraft:
http://www.kraftbrands.com/caramels/recipes/recipe-detail.aspx?recipeId=107072

Use a wooden spoon to help the excess off the caramel, back into the pan. Put them in the refrigerator for a while. After the caramel has dried, I used a double boiler to heat and melt the chocolate and added a little shortening, I didn’t measure, and a friend actually did this part, but just a little to smooth out, and thin the chocolate. Dip them in chocolate, and then dip in the crushed Heath Bars. Put on waxed paper and leave in the refrigerator overnight.

Dress up your apple with a tag, when giving as a gift.

Dress up your apple with a tag, when giving as a gift.

Holiday Treats

You can feel the anticipation!

You can feel the anticipation!

What do you look forward to making the most for the holidays? I have my tried and true favorites and I tried a few different treats last year that I will add to my repertoire. However there were a few tempting Pinterest treats I also tried. The Dulce de Leche caramel bars that I made pictured above were delicious, but when you cut them, even if you scored them, the chocolate and caramel would separate from cookie, waisting a lot of expensive chocolate and caramel in the process. Here is a recipe reference, not the original one I used (can’t find it) so maybe they will be easier to cut! http://www.seededatthetable.com/2012/12/18/holiday-dulce-de-leche-chocolate-bars/

Santa Hats

Santa Hats

These hats were simple, just dipped Bugle corn chips into red candy melts (the original called for caramel Bugles, but I couldn’t find any so I used plain). I then let them dry and re-dipped the top and bottom so the non-parrells would stick. The original recipe called for the top to be a mini marshmallow, but I decided they looked more cute in the end with the non-parrells.

easy santa mix to give to friends

easy santa mix to give to friends

I also found a recipe on a favorite site of mine http://www.kingarthurflour.com I loved it so much and it was so simple. I used my Twelve Days of Christmas pan and although a little hard to see the pattern completely, they were delicious and pretty. Here is the recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/shortbread-recipe

Twelve days of Christmas Shortbread

Twelve days of Christmas Shortbread

I will post my favorite holiday treat soon. What is your favorite treat? Any disasters with a new recipe? I’d love to hear. Thanks for stopping by.