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 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!