Thursday, April 22, 2010

Summer Fruits On My Mind

What a glorious day it is today! It has been wavering between spring and fall type weather here and I was beginning to lose my patience! Today is definitely SPRING!


One of my favorite things to do when baking, is to incorporate fresh, in season, fruits. Local fruits are not quite ready on Long Island, but the minute they are, I scoop them up. It is really important to me. The feeling I get from baking like this is like no other. Oh so domestic ;) Strawberries are just around the corner!!!

Anyway...I am itching to do some fresh fruit baking and so I was thinking of baking my delicious sugar cookie recipe, which always has freshly grated orange zest and freshly squeezed orange juice in it, and instead of using it for cut out cookies, I will ice it with flavored royal icing. Yum! I am thinking of trying fresh oranges as my first choice. I have to get eggs (wish I had a hen!) and then I'll report back tomorrow with some pictures.

Meanwhile, check for these in my Etsy shop. I'll be adding them as a listing, as well as some lime meltaways, and other fresh fruit varieties. I'll be experimenting today!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cowboy Cookies! Yeehaw!


I wanted to wish a very happy birthday to a special little boy named David. He is very special to his grandma who ordered a set of cowboy cookies for his 3rd birthday party.

When I heard that I was going to be making this theme, I was so excited! After a long rush on crosses, doves and angels, I finally get to test my creativity and new found skills of cookie cutter making! I will be making a tutorial of this in the near future, so please check back and see how to make your own cutters!


After creating the shapes that my customer requested, I got to work on the design. I am so excited with the results! I have to say ;) Can I do that?! My customer asked for a saddle and a cowboy hat. For a third design, I suggested a gun and holster after seeing the invitation. To finish off the set, I decided upon a horse for the birthday boy! I hope you all like!



Friday, April 16, 2010

Baptism Season



Every time I get myself all geared up to blog more often, one thing or another gets in the way! I'm tired of saying "I'm sorry" so I won't. I'll just pop in here when I can and accept that that is how it is!

I have been busy, busy, busy! And I LOVE that I can say that :) I have had so many orders for Baptism cookies that I stopped showing pictures! They are all variations of the same cookie with pink or blue themes. I love how they looked all wrapped up with pretty bows.






I would like to take the time to share some of my feedback. My customers have been so supportive and I am so grateful for their positive words. I hope that you all feel as good about my products as I do when you read these comments:

" Engeline Victoria - hey lisa! thank you!.. i can't wait til the guests see and taste the cookies.. keep baking and designing those cookies... twas a pleasure working with you Lisa =)"

"The cookies were great! In my experience a beautiful cookie doesn't always taste good. But these were beautiful and delicious!" kudos..."

"gayleannemorris says: I JUST LOVE THEM, THEY ARE EVERYTHING I THOUGHT THEY WOULD BE , AND TASTE GREAT"

"carlabelniak says: Oh what a success the cookies were! The children were thrilled and the adults....well they ate more than their share. the little one who had her tonsils out was so excited. Thanks so much for rushing them. Will definitely order again. Carla"

Tomorrow, I'll address the reason I posted all of these comments!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm Gonna Be A Dove Mommy!


I am so excited to announce that my dove laid an egg! It is so beautiful and white! We thought that it was strange that it was only one egg. The next day, there were two! This picture is through the window and screen. I went outside to get a clearer picture, but the angle is all wrong and branches are in the way :(


It is almost as if she wanted to place her nest so that I could see it perfectly from the house! She is perched 3 feet from where I am sitting. Isn't she pretty?! I'll keep you update ;)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Brilliant Find!



A few weeks ago, my husband bought an immersion blender. It seemed like a fun sort of tool. I love to make soup and this tool is great for thickening up the soup. It went under the counter in a cabinet and never came out. Isn't that the way of most gadgets?!

The other day, I was mixing some different colors of royal icing with my spatula and daydreaming about wishing I had a had mixer for the job when I realized that I did! And it was actually BETTER than a hand mixer! The immersion blender has an attachment beater and it works beautifully for this job!




Using this blender enables me to have even better control of color mixing. No more streaks! And I can create just the right icing consistency with ease. Please just remember to let the icing sit for 20 minutes so that the bubbles rise to the surface. Gently bang the base of the container on the counter. I find that this helps the bubbles rise even quicker. Then, run a knife through the mixture. Now the icing is ready to use.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Cutest Dog


I wanted to post the cutest picture that I took the other day. If you know me, you know that I am a lover of Malteses'. My Maggie is my love. I have enjoyed ever minute of the 14 years that I have had her. She is a pip and makes us smile 100 times a day!

My neighbor brought over her new puppy the other day. We wanted to eat him up! The pictures don't really tell how small he is! Maggie is 7.5 lbs. She's small. The puppy walked under Maggy. Right under her!


Here is Jakey enjoying her!

Spring Has Arrived!

Oh happy day! The other day I noticed a pair of doves sitting in the evergreen tree that is just outside the window where I sit in my den. It was so excited to see them up close and their song is pretty. I was sad to see them fly away.

When I sat down, today, I saw what looked like the beginning of a nest in the same tree! Could it be?! A moment later, the two love birds landed on a branch and the little lady placed herself gracefully in her nest!





It is such a present to be able to see these birds up close like this! I am hoping that this is where they will hatch their chicks. I've never seen Mourning Doves in anything more than pairs. I'll have to look up info about their young. I do know that these birds don't go anywhere without each other and he perches himself on the outer branches and is so aware of everything.

I do hope that they make this tree their summer home!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pt. 2 - Make Your Own Cookie Cutters

Now that I have my apron stencil, I can proceed with making my favorite cookie dough. Rolling the dough out used to be my least favorite task. The thought of flour all over the place really makes me uptight, so I solved that problem by filling a small container that is used to sift sugar onto baked goods, with flour! It is the perfect tool and a MUST HAVE for me! Isn't this a great tip?! Now I control where the flour goes.



Roll out the dough and cut out the apron shape using an exacto knife or paring knife.



I bake my sugar cookies on a Silpat in the oven. I love that nothing sticks to this silicone sheet and everything bakes so evenly.



Decorating is the really fun part! I had seen an apron that sparked the original idea for this project on a great blog that I follow. Lindsey of The Pleated Poppy has so many really innovative and creative ideas. You should check her blog out! When I saw one of her aprons, I decided that it would look great as a cookie. Here is the final product!



I would love to see what you are making. Drop me a note!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Making Your Own "Cookie Cutters"

Since I am just beginning my sugar cookie adventures, my collection of cookie cutters is just beginning to grow. Creating the cookie shapes I want requires a bit of resourcefulness - something I love to do! Since I needed a sturdy piece of plastic, I decided to use a disposable take-out container lid. A good friend of mine had suggested that I save these just for that purpose ;)

To start out, make a drawing of your cookie. Make sure to make the outline nice and visible. I use a Sharpie to go over the final product.


Next, you'll need a sharp Exacto knife and a self-sealing mat to work on. Please be sure to work on this surface. You won't want to cut an apron shape onto your kitchen table!


Place your drawing on the mat with the lid centered over it. CAREFULLY cut the shape out. You'll probably need to push fairly hard with the knife until you have cut all the way through. When you are done, you can remove the shape that you have cut out.


Now you have a stencil that you can use to cut out your shape on your dough. Some people use what I call the negative, or the piece that you remove from the lid, to cut around. I feel more comfortable using the lid part to cut out my shape. It is more convenient to hold in place and I can see what I am doing more easily. I also find that working on a Lazy Susan is very convenient as you can turn your work around as needed. These are easy enough to find and I use it constantly. I would highly suggest getting one. I think Rubbermaid makes one and I've seen it for sale at Wal-Mart.

Tomorrow, I'll continue with my Apron cookie. I hope you check back! Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Make Your Own Fondant

I'm the kind of girl who likes to be self-sufficient...ie. I'm too lazy to run to the store every time I need something ;) And it doesn't hurt that it is so much cheaper when you make something yourself. Anyway, I wanted to share the fact that making your own fondant is simple as can be and tastes much better than pre-made fondant I'm told.

The three ingredients you need are:
1. marshmallows - mini is easier, but not required
2. water
3. confectioner's sugar
4. food coloring

I only needed a little bit of fondant to make some flowers for my cookies, so I just made a small amount. You be the judge of how many times to multiply this recipe by according to your project's needs.


The first step includes microwaving the marshmallows with some water. In a glass bowl, measure cups of marshmallows and add water. Microwave by 30 second intervals, stirring with a rubber spatula (this is a sticky venture!) in between, until no lumps are left.


The next step is to add sifted confectioner's sugar, all at once, and begin kneading. I would suggest using the spatula as long as you can. Then spray your hands with vegetable spray and get right in there! You can turn this out onto a confectioner's sugar lined surface to knead, but I just keep it all in the bowl. I guess larger amounts would need to be handled differently ;) Don't be afraid to spray your hands when needed.


Once you have kneaded your fondant nice and smooth, you can color it with food coloring. I do this in a ziploc bag so as not to get the dye on my hands. It is helpful to spray vegetable spray inside the bag first.


Once the color is well incorporated, it is ready to be rolled and cut. There are many specialized tools on the market, but don't be afraid to improvise. I have cutters, but I also use straws for circles, etc. It is smart to roll the fondant out on wax paper, or as I have, on a silicone sheet that is used to bake on. Be very careful not to cut the sheet with the metal cutters. I've learned that the hard way ;)




When you have cut out your shapes, let them dry until they are hard to the touch. It is better to arrange them so they will dry in a 3 dimensional shape - they look more realistic. I have an egg tray from a warehouse box of eggs that works wonderfully. Use your imagination, or buy one of the gadgets that are available for this purpose. You can store your pretties in a ziplock and I'm told they will last for months and months.

Have fun with your creations and most of all, have fun with your imagination =) Be adventurous and don't be afraid to try something new!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Another Chapter Begins - Decorating Sugar Cookies

I had an idea. Most of the blogs that you read are by talented people who are already accomplished at what they do. I mean, who wants to post pictures of things that are not perfect?! That is how we think - us creative people. Well, I've decided that I want to keep a running log of my progress while learning this amazing craft of decorating sugar cookies.

The truth is that I decided 6 months ago that I wanted to add this technique to my baking skills - be what they may. I was so drawn to the art that I set out to learn everything I could. I read everything in site and scoured the internet, reading and re-reading until I felt like I had a grasp of the process...and there are quite a few!

And then I felt like I froze in my tracks! Having never even held a pastry bag, and absolutely dreading the thought of dealing with rolling dough and cleaning up the mess, I found myself avoiding the kitchen. I felt like it was all too overwhelming to even try! There are sooo many steps and soooo much preparation. I couldn't step over that threshold and that is soooooo unlike me. Usually, when it comes to creating, I eagerly dive in. Nothing gets in my way.

I sat on this whole thing for months. At the same time, I kept searching out exposure to this craft. One day, I had a request for some duck cookies. I was so excited because I finally HAD to face my fears! I baked my cookies and mixed my icings. I reluctantly set up my pastry bags and then something happened. All of a sudden, I felt empowered! I found that I could actually outline these shapes without them looking like 3 year old did them! From that moment on, the process just "flowed" pardon the pun ;)



And that is how it began. I want to make it very clear that I am just a beginner in this journey. I am humble and only want to share my ideas and the process of learning. There are some of the most talented artists out there and I aspire to do half what they do...Callye. So come along with me. Learn a little, share a little and please, please, please converse with me! I want to learn from you as well!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Love Is In The Air

Valentine's Day will forever be a melancholy holiday in our family. Don't get me wrong. Hubby and I are in love, even after 29 years together, but on the day after, 4 years ago, the most special person on earth left us. And we miss her every minute of every day. So with emotions that run the gamete, we remember Momma.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Cookies

Stuffy head - sniffling, sneezing! Winter is so over rated. I'm dreaming of the spring. I just can't help it. I was meant to live in a warmer climate ;)



Instead, I'll go bake. I just got an order for my "love" cookies. They are so soft and warm looking. I can make them in this soft pink or vibrant colors. Any word can be inserted as well, so use your imagination! How about purple and orange hearts with your child's name added for their birthday party favors? Or the word "hope" for someone who needs to be reminded to be strong. A wedding date would look beautiful printed on a white on white cookie with a hint of the bridesmaids' color added in the center of the dots.



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Poem By My Mom

When my first son was born, my mom wrote this most beautiful poem for him. I hold it especially close to my heart. Joshua is now a Sophomore in college.

Mom was an 8th grade English teacher for 35 years. She loved her job more than most. I don't think I ever once heard her say a negative thing about work. When I went away to college, she says that she filled the void and dealt with her emotions by writing some of the most wonderful childrens' poetry. She says that it all came pouring out! I figure there are probably 40 or 50. And then she was done. Nothing came. I have asked her to pen a few here or there, but nothing seemed to strike a chord...proof that you can't force creativity.

The best part of having a teacher grandma who writes poetry and is retired, is that she can come in to your classes and read them. We have so many fun memories of her sitting in those tiny little chairs with the little ones all gathered around. Joshua, and later Jacob, would enjoy many years of feeling special as Mia read her poems and their friends laughed out loud (many of the poems are very silly ;)), while mom (me) would try to hide the tears. Great memories. I'm sharing Joshua's poem. Enjoy.

Dream Sweetly, Love

Lullaby
Still, sleep awhile,
My life's delight.
For thee alone
God made the night.

Sweet babe, let slumber,
Soft and mild
Hover o'er
Thy mother's child.

Be silent, love,
In peace, at rest.
Dream sweetly of
Thy mother's breast.

Of little lambs,
Of golden suns,
Dream sweetly, love,
My sleepy one.

Donna W. Paskin

It Finally Happened!

cross

As you can tell, for many months, and even years, I've been searching for answers. I believe in life's journeys. I believe that we learn from our lessons. So I don't feel too badly that it has taken so long for me to find these answers. I have been reaching down deep for a path that both feels right and is not an uphill battle. I don't mean that I don't want to work hard. I mean that I need there to be market for my goods.

Being creative has been both a curse and a blessing for me. It has brought a strong desire that I can't deny, as well as a distraction that holds me back. I have said before that I MUST create. I don't know anything else. And I am lucky in that I can be successful in most anything I put my mind to learning. At the same time, I have tried so many different ideas that have not been successfully received, that it starts to feel wrong...and embarrassing, to boot!

After a long, drawn out attempt at marketing my jewelry, which I LOVE to make by the way, I decided to move on to another area. With the market in the dumps and people not spending money on things like jewelry, I decided to concentrate on baking. My cookies have always been received very well, so I put my efforts in to creating an Etsy shop and honing some new recipes. I also decided that I wanted to add icing cookies to my repertoire. I began researching and reading everything I could get my hands on. I studied every tiny detail and tried every recipe I could find. Still, there was something that was holding me back from just diving in to this new endeavor. I felt like I already knew what I was doing. I had recipes that I loved. I gathered all of the tools I would need. Yet I was intimidated. For 6 months, I have had it in my mind that I would be creating these cookies in the future, but I never found the courage to actually try my hand at this craft.

Along this journey, I met a friend. It's funny how things happen. I have never had a friend who is also creative. I've never known what it is like to relate to someone on my level of creative passion. Pretty sad. I've always felt like people thought I was "playing" while I was creating, while actually, I was honing my skills. It has been life changing, making a friend who has the same appreciations as I do. It has actually given me a new perspective on many levels. Thanks "C"...more than you know.

Elmo

Things happen for a reason. I got a request from a customer for Elmo cookies. My first thought was that I couldn't create a figure. It had to be discernible! But then I realized that I had to give it a go. The experience was eye opening and wonderfully freeing! Elmo actually looked just like Elmo! And do you know that another order came my way that evening for a large platter of Baptism cookies! I was on my way and will never look back! I am in love with this medium. I love to bake and the icing no longer intimidates me! I have a great feel for what I am doing and I just want to make more and more designs!

Baptism collage

I am so hopeful that I can find local customers so that I won't have to ship, but when need be, shipping is definitely is doable. I just hate the added cost to my customers. I need more customers, now, so keep the orders coming! I have so much excitement for this and am looking forward to creating my own designs as well as yours.

Hope to hear from you soon!