Thursday, April 26, 2012

Flowers and Bees


We went hiking a few weeks after I moved here. There was a steady stream of people going both directions. Grandmas were passing us from behind and I swear we got lapped at least once before we even made it all the way up. I was excited when I realized we were almost to the top. I mean, the whole point of hiking is to get somewhere cool and then just stop and think about how you worked really hard to get there. And then to feel good about yourself because you are breathing outside air and seeing things that are not your living room walls and exerting yourself and stuff. Imagine my surprise when we reached the top and found.... WORK OUT MACHINES. I kid you not. Those old ladies that passed us half way up were hard at work ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN doing things like shoulder presses and abdominal twists. I mean, sure it was a nice view and all....but isn't climbing a mountain enough for one person? I tell you what happened next-- this person collapsed on a bench while pretending her infant needed attention.

I've had an exercise complex ever since that day. At any given moment, I can look out my window and see someone power walking through the rice paddies. I drive a bus-van and every time I try to squeeze it into a too small parking place, it never fails that I will be passed by a group of people who are using their own two feet to propel them forward. It is not uncommon to see taxi drivers doing jumping jacks and knee-bends on the side of the road while waiting for their next customer to come along. OOH -- and this one time, I was running early one morning and I ran past an entire construction crew performing synchronized stretching before they started work for the day. They were all lined up and everything.

 
A few days ago I went grocery shopping and when I got home there were no parking spots left on the ground level. I had to park in the basement. And I had a lot of groceries. Like, A LOT. I'm probably the odd person out here, but I don't actually enjoy taking my 3 crying, candy-needing, running crazy around the store children grocery shopping. So I try to buy enough food to last until we move back to America or for three weeks (whichever comes first) every time I go to the store. This time was no exception. I was not excited about carrying 14 bags of groceries up all the stairs, across the parking lot, up more stairs to my building, pressing the door code, the elevator buttons, and another door code. So I ran up and grabbed my children's wagon. I thought I was so smart. I was pulling it up the parking ramp and feeling pretty good about my exercising self. There was even a Korean woman standing there just watching me. I figured she was probably just amazed at how strong I was. And then, as I made eye contact with the Korean woman holding her 3 pears and some lettuce ...I realized... I was pulling a WAGON LOAD of food into my house. A wagon load. I had so much food I couldn't even carry it. But on the plus side -- I have plenty of flour and cocoa powder and sugar. So I'm just going to make cookies today and think about maybe exercising for real another day. Like maybe June 14th. That sounds like a good day.

After seeing Callye's super cute bees last week, I really wanted to make some for this platter.  What? That was nearly two months ago? Okay, well, in toddler-years that was like a week ago. I don't have a bee cutter though. So I used a mini pear cutter.

Stuff you need -- 
pear cutter
food color markers
pre-made eyeballs (tutorial here)
yellow icing
black icing
white icing
wagon load of food (optional)
pink petal dust (also optional)



I drew the lines on my cookies just like Callye did because the first time I tried to draw the bee on paper it came our really wonky. And it looked like it had two heads and was capable of eating me and all my groceries. Not quite the look I was going for.
1. Go ahead and draw your lines. And then fill in the black stripes and let them dry a good while.
2. Then do the yellow stripes and the head.
3. Let it dry at least twenty minutes before adding the wings. Just so you know, I used disco dust for the first time in my life on these wings. You can't tell from the picture, but I thought it was important to document this historical occasion.
4. I let all that dry overnight but you could probably get away with only 3 hours. Add your pre-made eyeballs, some antennae, a little mouth, the stinger and cute rosy cheeks.

And then hide these from small children. Because I am warning you now -- they are going to be really appealing to the young crowd. At least they were appealing to my young crowd.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Raining Sunshine


I have a confession to make. (I know. Always with the confessions.)

I haven't made cookies in nearly 3 weeks. But that's not the worst part. The worst part was that I didn't even want to make cookies.  Go ahead and shun me now. It's cool. I've been expecting it.

See, I've been real, real sick. I don't usually get sick. Ever. But this time I did. And I was sick for kind of a long time. And I was super annoying to be around. But it wasn't my fault. I mean, I don't have much practice being sick. I don't know how to handle it. I panicked and went for annoying. I can't be judged on the same terms as more experienced sick people. Anyway... about the same day that my husband was getting ready to check into a hotel room with our 3 small children just to get away from me...I miraculously started feeling better. Seriously though, I wasn't faking it. Who fakes not wanting to make cookies?!

I was going to tell you all the funny stories from those weeks I was sick to make up for not posting. But then I realized that there isn't anything funny about being sick and annoying. So I'll just tell you this super embarrassing story instead. Get ready. It's a good one.

When I was 12-ish years of age,  I didn't like water. Actually, that is an understatement. I hated it. I was terrified of it. And my mother made me take swimming lessons anyway. Clearly, she did not understand that water was my arch-nemesis. I could DIE and she would be calmly sitting by the side of the pool waiting for those treacherous twenty minutes to expire. I actually worked myself up over the lessons to the point where my parents took me to a doctor and had me checked out for asthma because of all the quick, raspy, back of the throat breathing going on at the side of the pool. (I kid you not. I still remember the look on that doctor's face as he tried to explain to my parents that I was a complete pansy. Except I think he called it something more like "anxiety induced breathing issues.")

I'd like to tell you that after weeks and weeks of swimming lessons that things got better. I'd like to tell you that I eventually put my head underwater without crying and seeing my life flash before my very eyes. I would also like to tell you that I am currently a millionaire vacationing in Fiji, but none of those things would be true. In fact...we have yet to get to the most embarrassing part of this story. The very last day of swim lessons was kind of a play day. My teacher said it would be fun. And THEN she said it would be in the deep pool. The TWENTY FOOT DEEP pool. And that I had to jump off the low-dive because it would be fun. I told her it wouldn't be fun at all.

I don't know what in the previous 6 weeks of swim lessons gave her any indication that I would be capable of doing something like that without making a scene and possibly passing out. She didn't care. Actually, now that I think about it...it might have been revenge for those previous 6 weeks of swim lessons. She got in the pool and told me that she would be right there, that all I had to do was jump to her and she would catch me and help me swim to the side of the pool. I didn't care what she said anymore. I was standing on the edge of the low dive looking at twenty feet of water below me and I got this great idea. I sat down on the low dive. My feet could almost touch the water. I started breathing again. And then I got an even better idea. I slowly inched my lower half off of the low dive while still clinging to the board with my arms. Literally, inch by inch, I eased into the water until my teacher grabbed on to me and told me to let go of the board.

I think that might have been the point where she gave up on me because she finally let me get out and go get dressed even though everyone else had to stay and have fun in the deep pool. I think this story might actually be more embarrassing for my mom because after that she said I didn't have to take swim lessons anymore. (For the record -- I actually ended up becoming a lifeguard and then a white water rafting guide. So.... it would be safe to say that water and I have had a nice chat and worked out our differences. )

These cookies have absolutely nothing to do with this post. But I don't care because they made me happy. You can't really go wrong with happy sunshine, can you?


Outline and flood the middle section. Immediately pipe on some polka dots. Let that dry for 30 minutes and then fill in the outside sections and drop on the polka dots. You don't even have to wait for those to dry. You can just head right to step 4 and fill in the handle. And DONE. Instant happiness. Enjoy your week and don't get sick. Or drown.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cherry Blossom Cookies


I am quite decisive.

I can enter a movie rental establishment and walk out in under five minutes with three movies and a box of popcorn. I have no problems shopping for clothing. I love it or I hate it. Immediately. I don't "let things grow on me." Things don't grow on me. It took less than an hour for me to decide to be a river guide. It took even less time to pack the clothes I thought I would need. Buying a car? That's about as easy as choosing my socks for the day. And...my socks are all the same color and style.

It's a fantastic thing when it comes to raising children.

Can I have this incredibly healthy snack full of vitamins and minerals that my growing body needs? -- YES.

Can I watch this movie that is full of naughty words and that will make me want to hit my sister after viewing it for only 12 minutes? -- NO.

Is it okay if I climb out on the roof so I can throw my ball down 15 stories? I promise I won't fall off and I won't hit anyone with my toy. -- NO. 

See? Easy.


Cookies however are like my decision making kryptonite. I could NOT, for the life of me, decide on a shape for these cookies. I mean that literally. So in the end...I just made all the shapes. And then I couldn't decide if I wanted to geometrically represent the blossoms with dots, or make actual petals and centers....or maybe a little bit of both. So...I did all three.

I live in a land of Cherry Blossoms, so these cookies basically had to happen. They are SO SO easy that you should think about making them...no matter where you live. Start by outlining the cookie shape with some thick brown icing. Let that dry for kind of a while.

There is a lot of wet-on-wet action going on with these cookies. And that means that you are going to want to use some thin flood icing. Like a 5 count flood icing. Don't be afraid. Just do it.

1. Flood cookie with white icing.
2. Pipe a branch with brown icing.
3. Drop some random dots with a dark pink icing.
4. Drop some more random dots with a lighter pink icing.
5. Don't pay attention to the weirdness that was my photography skills this morning. (Please.)

If you want to make the individual petals, CLICK HERE for the wet-on-wet daisy tutorial. 

Now that you've had a few minutes to think about it -- What would you decide? Which shapes? Which style of flowers? I NEED some closure here.

CLICK HERE to see last year's Cherry Blossom cookies.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Vanilla Variation

 Remember the good old days when we ate End-All for Chocolate Cookies and talked about funny things like the fireman jumping off my balcony?  Did you know its been over a year since I shared that recipe with you all and peer pressured you into trying it? I'm such a good friend enabler.

Seriously, if you need help justifying an extra pair of jeans or a day floating on a river or something....I am your girl. An afternoon nap you say? How about a trip to Spain? You just call me right up and I'll get on it. I can even print it out on some kind of important looking letter-head thing and priority mail it to your husband/mother/boss/child's school teacher. I'm not really sure about gift wrap though. I could look into it if that's important to you.

 Umm....maybe just don't tell MY husband though, okay?

Because, clearly, I'm a little susceptible to peer pressure myself. I mean.. a VANILLA VARIATION??!! What? How did that happen?  (You guys are such good friends.)


The Vanilla Variation

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange (or almond) extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 (or 4 1/2 cups) flour

 Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, vanilla, and orange extract. Mix well. Add baking powder and salt and mix again.  Add flour 1 cup at a time. Again, IF YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE THESE COOKIES RIGHT AWAY, add 4 1/2 cups flour and go for it. No need to chill the dough. If you are not going to use the dough immediately-- stop at 4 cups of flour. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 3/8 inch thick. Bake at 375 F for 7 minutes. Eat and enjoy. Repeat as necessary.

 ** I use butter that is only slightly softened. Mostly because I don't have the foresight to get it out until EXACTLY when I need it. This recipe is perfect for that. Get your butter out first and then gather the rest of your ingredients and you should be good to go.

** You can see that this recipe really is only a variation of the End-All Chocolate recipe. The texture is the same. The sharp edges are the same. The mouth-feel of the cookies is the same. They are just....you know, Chocolate-Free. I hope that's okay.



Friday, April 6, 2012

Cookies and Cards? For Easter?

Hey everyone! I'm back! I'm not super sick anymore and I have a FUN surprise for you guys -- you get to hear all about one of my cousins! Yeay! We're all excited because it is Friday! And hearing about my cousin is the cherry on top!! Fantastic day.

So....here's the deal. Pam (my cousin) is this super talented, creative.....wait for it....CARD MAKER. For real. The things she creates out of paper are like....no actually, there aren't words for them. But I love them. And once, I got to hold one in my hand and carry it around with me for days. And I still have it.

It looks like this. Because that is what she made for me. This exact card. I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I pretty much stalk her blog. And drool over her cards. And wonder how in the world she thinks to add 3 little dots to a tree trunk....because its obviously the PERFECT addition....sigh....There was really only ever one solution to this.

I convinced her to do a Cookies and Cards project with me.

What's not to love? I mean, there are cards and there are cookies and it has the same initials as "Cookies and Cream" which we all know is a good thing. And, if that weren't enough, basically it means that once a month I get to shamelessly use one of her gorgeous card designs to make some cookies! Yeay! We all win!

Since it is going to be Easter in like...hours now...I chose one of her Easter designs. THIS Easter design. I LOVED the pattern on the eggs. Still love it. Plus, it was a super good excuse to play with tootsie rolls. Seriously, just mush a bunch together, roll them out flat, and cut out shapes with teensy-tiny fondant cutters...or your icing tips and drop on to a freshly iced cookie.

Guess what? It's still not over! Yeay! It's still Friday! Pam chose one of MY cookies and is making it into a CARD! Yeay! Best day ever! Okay -- go check out HER CREATIONS HERE!! (Except that after you go and see what she can do....don't judge me based off that, okay? Because she is AMAZING!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Daffodils...again.

I'm not exactly what you would call a "flower lover." I mean, I don't have anything against them. If someone gave me a big ol' bouquet of love in flower form, I would certainly be real, real happy. And I would put them in a pretty vase and look at them long after they had lost their petals....

Its just that I'm more of a practical person. I'll be honest. A bouquet of tools on Mother's Day would be SO COOL.I think that my flower problems stem from my young childhood.

When I was growing up, my friend let me in on a little secret. The small old man living on the corner liked flowers. She told me that once he had PAID her when she brought him some flowers. So, the enterprising 4 year old that I was...I spent all day gathering HIS flowers and taking them to him -- THREE flowers at a time. I thought I was SO SMART. Until I got home. And my mother found me counting my money. Hoping to get out of the sticky situation I had gotten myself into, I innocently told my mother that it wasn't my fault. That "the Devil made me do it." I figured she would understand. She would probably give me a hug and help me count the rest of my small pile. I was a little bit wrong. Somehow she didn't understand. She made me march right back to my kind old neighbor's house and return his money. AND apologize for picking his flowers.

That being said...I do have a special place in my heart for two types of flowers. I love the Lilies of all kinds. And I love daffodils. I wrote about them last spring HERE. They are kind of a "hope springs eternal" thing for me.  So when Hani asked me to join her "Let's smell the flowers" party, I was SO EXCITED to find daffodils on the list. Want to make some?

First, you need a random assortment of cookies. I used a 6 petal flower cutter and just pinched the ends a bit for the base of the daffodil. For the top of the center pieces, I used my smallest scalloped circle from THIS SET and cut the hole in the center with the back side of a regular piping tip. For the smaller washer shaped pieces, I used the back side of a large 2M piping tip for the outside circle and a regular piping tip again for the inside circle. 

Outline and fill every other flower petal. Let them dry for about an hour and then outline and fill the remaining petals. Don't worry about making the center perfect. We're going to cover that up later.

You can work on the center pieces while waiting for the first set of petals to dry. Ice the scalloped piece and let it dry for at least 20 minutes. With a #1 tip, pipe a scalloped border around the edge and immediately cover in sanding sugar. Let that dry for about an hour. Pipe a tiny ring of icing on the plain ring cookie and stack the scalloped circle on top.


Let this piece dry for another 20 minutes. Pipe another ring of icing on the bottom of the two center pieces and attach place them in the middle of the flower cookie. Then comes the crazy fun part. Squeeze some icing out the top of the tip and down the side a little bit. Swirl it around on the inside of the center piece to coat the inside edges. I guess you could totally skip this step if you wanted to, but then you would be missing out on the crazy fun part.

And that would be weird if you deliberately chose to avoid the crazy fun part. Because then I would be all "Agghhh. I feel like I don't even know you anymore!" And you would be all "Yes, you do. I just don't like messes." And I would be all, "Yeah-yeah you do. I've seen your house." And then you would be all, "That wasn't nice." And then I would be all "Sorry." So...maybe let's avoid that and just do the crazy fun part.



If you like flowers in any form -- feel free to visit these other very talented ladies. It's like a Home and Garden show in your jammies!!


1. Black Eye Susan by Lisa, The Bearfoot Baker
2. Carnation by Meaghan, The Decorated Cookie
3. Cherry Tree Flower by Pam, Cookie Crazie
4. Daffodil by Georganne, LilaLoa
5. Daisy by Stephanie, Ellies Bites
6. Dogwood by Marian, Sweetopia
7. Gerbera by Paula, Vanilla Bean Baker
8. Hyacinth by Amber, SweetAmbs
9. Hydrangea by Kim, The Partiologist
10. Iris by Cristin, Cristin's Cookies
11. Lavender by Liz, Arty McGoo
12. Lily of The Valley by Hani, Haniela's
13. Lotus by Marlyn, Montreal Confections
14. Morning Glory by Glory, Glorious Treats
15. Orchid by Ali, Ali Bee's Bake Shop
16. Pansy Nicole, Life's A Batch
17. Poppy by Callye,  SweetSugarBelle
18. Sunflower by Bea, Cancun Cookies
19. Tulip by Lorriane, LorrainesCookies

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