Friday, December 28, 2012

New Year's Eve Cookies


My New Year's Resolution is to find more things to cram into my day. I just don't have enough going on. My children are well behaved and quiet and very, very neat. Our meals basically make themselves and I am the one person on the planet who is apparently immune to Pinterest.  I find myself sitting on my couch staring at the wall, willing a necessary task to present itself so I may become a more useful member of society.  Ha ha ha ha ha.... ah, I'm kidding. I'm only joking around. Just trying to be funny. My resolutions are actually

1. Be funny. (See above.)
2. Move to America.
3. Learn to breakdance better than my 5 year old.
4. Become royalty.
5. Stop wasting all that time thinking about how I'm going to have to do something without actually doing it.


By my calculations, if I can accomplish that last goal, it will add an extra 11 months of useable time to my year. It only took me 2 1/2 days to do the calculations. Sometimes you have to give a little to get a little, right?


I'm pretty much already over budget on time for this post, so let's just cut to the chase. These cookies. You should make some. New Year's Eve cookie sets are fantastic because you can choose any geometric shape, ice them, and call them confetti. I used THIS quatrefoil cutter for the clock, and THIS TRICK from Klickitat Street for the fireworks shape. But my favorite cookie of all is the square ceiling decorations cookie. Mostly because I would love nothing more than to have my entire house covered in those decorations for a super fun giant New Year's Eve party in which the entire neighborhood would be in attendance, and I, of course, would be wearing the prettiest dress of them all and people who didn't even know me would want to be my best friends and everyone would talk about it a totally good way until nearly St. Patrick's Day. Also, there would be cookies.


1. These cookies could not be easier. Especially if you listen to what I say, and don't pay so much attention to what I did. First, flood your cookie. You can outline it first if you want to. It's New Year's Eve. Don't stress about perfect lines. Let it dry overnight.
2. Using thick white icing, and a #1.5 tip, pipe some thin little lines coming from the top of the cookie and stopping randomly wherever you feel like it. You can make them straight if you want. I was going for the "someone just walked by" wavy look.
3. Here is where you need to listen. I piped some dots over the top of those lines. And some of them are wonky. And some of them fell off the line. Don't be like me. Just add dragees and sugar pearls while your strings are still wet.
4. You can't tell, but I painted the silver and gold circles with silver and gold airbrush paint. I also added the year. It will be 2013, in case you didn't know. Don't put 2012, because that would be weird.


My resolutions list still has some empty spots that need filling. Tell me. How would one go about being a better person in the next year? And... what's on YOUR LIST?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Home for the Holidays



You know what I love about decorating cookies? 

Everything.

I like the way that the chocolate cookie dough tastes right before you add the flour.
I love that I'm not actually supposed to admit that I taste the cookie dough and I also love knowing that I'm not the only person on the planet that breaks that rule.
I love the satisfaction I feel when I cut perfect circles out of brand new cookie dough and somehow manage to transfer them to the baking sheet...and they still look like circles and not like aliens eating ice cream cones.
I love the smell of cookies baking.
I love NOT burning those cookies.
I love eating fresh cookies.
I like the way the royal icing looks like soft serve ice cream when it's all thick in my mixing bowl.
I love coconut flavored royal icing...but not from a spoon. I just like the way it smells.
I love mixing tricky colors and having them magically turn into the exact shade I need.
I love PME tips.
I love when you go to test your icing consistency and it is already exactly the consistency you need. It's like you just won a whole extra hour of your life.
I love that cookies can be serious or silly or for congratulations or appreciation. They say "I'm sorry" and they say "I just love your face."
I love having exactly 1 tablespoon of icing left over. You can totally throw that away without feeling guilty that you didn't use it to make some kind of royal icing embellishment that you would forget you had stashed away in your "just in case"closet anyway. But it's not so little that you panic that you won't have enough. 
I love finishing all my cookies and then finding my kitchen magically cleaned by little garden elves. And by garden elves, I mean myself. Except I was waaaayyyy too tired to even remember I did it. So it was just like little garden elves cleaned my kitchen. 
I love giving cookies to people. Especially if it's a surprise. And especially, especially if they totally deserve a giant pick-me-up just because they are fantastic. Most people are fantastic. 

Most of all, I love that there is a whole cookie decorating WORLD out there. It's bigger than me. It's bigger than you. It's full of love and mutual respect and admiration and whole lot of icing covered jeans. It's like a secret code. I get you. And I'm glad you're there.


These cookies are a product of the mutual respect and admiration with a healthy dose of peer pressure and some gentle taunting thrown in as well.


Specifically from these ladies up there. Well, from the ladies that made those houses up there at least. Do you want to go see THEIR houses? Sure you do. (Insert a healthy dose of peer pressure here.)



Also,  the entire time I was making these cookies, I just kept thinking about making a Christmas Card like this, and then I would laugh all by myself in my very messy kitchen. (Get it? My HOUSE? I'm pretty much hilarious, right?)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Peppermint Meringues for a Cookie Party


So this one time, I had a really fun friend. And we had tons of fun every day of our lives. Except, actually, I had never actually met her. But I was pretty sure that if we hung out we would have tons of fun. And she was really good at making fun treats and even better at taking pictures of them and then she put them on the internet and people all over the world loved her. And then ONE DAY, she decided to have a super-huge cookie party. And she let me come. And she said I could make cookies. And, you guys know that I love to make cookies, so I said yes.

And then I got all weird, because what if people don't LIKE my cookies and I end up hiding in the corner staring at the plate of cookies that nobody wants to eat? Or... what if I bring the same cookies as someone else and their cookies are prettier and perfect and my cookies don't ever get asked out on a date or eaten or anything? And then I realized that cookies don't actually go on dates, so I should just make whatever I want. So I did. And I know this will come as a big shock to everyone, but they aren't decorated cookies. I did, however, manage to work in the necessary use of a piping bag anyway.






Peppermint Meringues. They're like crunchy foam. Who doesn't need a little more crunch foam in their lives? Go check it out HERE.




Friday, December 7, 2012

Whimsical Christmas -- Cookies and Cards



I'm pretty much the best parent in the entire world. At 10:30pm tonight I told my 2 year old and my 5 year old that it was cool if they got out of bed and turned on their lights and just played with their toys in their jammies until they felt like going to bed. And then I contemplated giving them cookies.
 
Just now I went back there to check on them. One of them is asleep in MY bed. The other is asleep on a fuzzy pink rug.  The lights are on in both rooms. One of them is no longer wearing jammies. There are more toys in the beds than on the floor, and somehow the pillows are missing. But, all in all, I consider it a huge success and I'm considering trying it again tomorrow night. This probably won't backfire, right? Maybe I should make a giant pile of Christmas cookies to bribe them with... just to be sure.

 

It's the first Friday of the month. And that means I get to make more cookies inspired by the fantastic cards that my cousin Pam makes on her blog, Simply Pam. And also she makes one of my cookies into a card. (I'm not going to lie... I LOVE seeing what she does with my cookies!) It's a win-win situation. Two wins for me.


 As soon as I saw this little tree I wanted to take him home and love him to pieces. But I settled for making him into a cookie. A cookie that will shortly be used as a bribe. Or breakfast. Really, I'm okay with either option.


1. Unless you have a cutter that looks exactly like this tree, it helps to outline it first. Apparently this shape is quite popular, but not one of my NINE Christmas tree cutters even remotely resembles this shape. I figure that since the cutters aren't the boss of my cookies, I can do what I want.
2. Using some 20 second icing to outline and fill the top and bottom sections. (If you want to outline the whole thing with thick icing and then fill with thin icing, that's cool with me. I won't stop you.)
3. Immediately drop some multi-colored drops of icing all over. Or not so immediately if you are trying to take pictures and accidentally forgot where you put your camera. Let the sections dry for an hour.
4. Carefully fill in the middle section and add the dots again. Pipe a tree trunk on the bottom. If you want to, you can make it a curly tree trunk. I did on every cookie except this one. Because I have lost my mind.


Also, it started snowing while I was taking these pictures. Big ol' GIANT flakes of snow. Yeay for the Christmas Season!!

PS -- Do you want to see which of my cookies my cousin turned into a card? CLICK HERE!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gift Ideas For the Cookie Decorator In Your Life

I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that if you read my blog you probably fall into one of two categories. 1) You ARE a cookie decorator or 2) You KNOW a cookie decorator. And right now I'm going to ask everyone from category 1 to leave the room. Go ahead. You know you need to run and check on those cookies just to make sure icing craters haven't suddenly appeared while you turned your back anyway. We'll be fine. We're just going to talk about the weather and other very non-interesting things while you are gone. No secrets. No sugar. Nothing at all that you need to stick around for....

... really, it's nothing.... I'm just staring at the wall. Absolutely nothing is going on. Feel free to step out....

... Are they gone? Whew. Let's get right down to business. First, if you know a cookie decorator -- you should be commended for putting up with their little - okay - HUGE, out-of-control obsession with cookies. You are practically a saint for going to bed by yourself every night of the week while they stay up for "just another 30 minutes" finishing their cookies. And for not saying anything when they make a "quick run" to the craft store. Again. Even though they went this morning. Twice.  And for sacrificing your sock drawer for those extra cutters that came in the mail that they "don't remember ordering." And for that matter... sacrificing your entire dining room table. I mean, when was the last time you SAW that thing? And most of all -- for listening to them talk about cookies over and over again and not letting them know that you would rather eat your own foot instead. We love that the most. Forget chocolate. What a cookie decorator really wants is a good "I would love to know more about that cookie."  But since that doesn't fit under the tree, I've come up with a list of things that will.

GIFTS YOU CAN GET EVERY DECORATOR... EVERY YEAR



1. DUSTS -- Disco dust, Petal dust and Luster dust. You can get them in any color and any quantity. And it doesn't matter how many they already have. They will always be happy for another one. (You know, because when they get a second pink, they can actually use the first pink and stop saving it for a time when they'll *really* need it.) 
PRICE:  $3-5 Get them HERE or HERE. And while you are at it, grab a dust shaker HERE.


2. PME SUPATUBES -- These are the best decorating tips that money can buy. They are made of stainless steal. They don't rust. They do, however, like to lose themselves in garbage disposals and other places where they will never be found. And then there is devastation in the heart of the cookie decorator. No one likes devastation.
PRICE: $4-5 Find them HERE or HERE. You might also be able to find them at a local craft store.


3. ATECO COUPLERS -- When it comes to couplers, there are two kinds. There are Ateco couplers and there are couplers you don't actually want to use, but you do because that's what you bought in the first place because you didn't know better and now that you *do* know better, you can't justify throwing them away and getting the good ones even though they are 67 cents each.
PRICE: $1 Get them HERE




4. HALF SHEET BAKING PAN -- I have never heard a cookie decorator say, "I just have too many half sheet baking pans. I'm going to toss a few of them out." They can never have too many. They use them to bake cookies on. And to store decorating supplies when they move from room to room. And to transport cookies. And as a flat, secure place on which to place cookies while they dry. And as a sled. They need another one or five. Trust me. The most common baking sheets are 18 gauge aluminum. (And a half sheet is 18" by 13")
PRICE: $6-12 You can buy them HERE or HERE. Most stores that sell any kind of kitchen supplies will also carry them.


5. BEATER BLADES -- If they don't already have one, they want one. If they already have one, they want another one in case that one breaks. Because...sadly... they do break. And since these blades have an uncanny knack for breaking in the middle of the busiest and most frustrating day of your cookie decorator's entire life... they will love you forever when they are able to pull out that back up and keep going at 2am. And you will be glad that they didn't wake you up hysterically crying because they haven't slept in two days and don't actually have any logical reasoning skills left.One warning -- MAKE SURE you know the exact brand and model number of their mixer before purchasing one of these. They aren't one size fits all.
PRICE: $18-35 Click HERE for a whole range of options. Specialty kitchen stores should have many sizes as well.


6. PLATES AND PLATTERS -- Cookie decorators want people to look at their cookies. So they put them on a pretty plate and take a picture and post it online. Or invite all of their friends to come over and look at them.  But not every plate matches every cookie collection. Any cookie decorator would welcome new plates and platters for their cookies. Many of them would even be happy with a random assortment from the local thrift store as well. When in doubt - white is always classy.
PRICE: $1- 40 Some great places to look - Most home stores (Home Goods, Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel,) Craft stores (Hobby Lobby, JoAnn's, Michael's) Specialty Kitchen Stores, Thrift Shops, Department Stores...


7. SKETCHBOOKS -- If they don't have one, they should. I have three. And I kind of want another one. They can use it to trace their cutters and then draw and color their designs before starting. They can use it as a scrapbook of inspiration by gluing pieces of magazines, wrapping paper and cards to each page. They can use it to keep track of their favorite color combinations... and how they made them. Big sketchbooks should be spiral bound so they can be opened flat for cutter tracing. Small bound sketchbooks also have a place as they are perfect for carrying around so they never forget an idea. 
PRICE: $7-15 Get one HERE or at most book stores or art stores. 



8. STENCILS -- Stencils can make fancy designs quick work. The hardest part about using a stencil is keeping it clean. It would be GREAT to have a duplicate stencil so you could work twice as long before stopping to clean it. It would also be GREAT to have fun, new stencils to try out.
PRICE: $6-90 You can find a huge assortment HERE. THIS ONE is my favorite.




GIFTS THAT REQUIRE A LITTLE MORE SLEUTHING
(They may already have one and not need any more.)


9. PRETTY JARS -- for sprinkles and sanding sugars and other edible decorations. They want to organize them. And easily see what they have and what they can use. And secretly (or not) they just want to stare at their sugars and sprinkles and think about how pretty they are. 4-6 ounce jars are usually the right size.
PRICE: $2-4 each  You can get some glass jar sets HERE or or at many home or kitchen stores. And for houses with small children, grab some plastic jars HERE.


10. HEAT SEALER -- If they sell cookies at all, then they put them in some kind of bag or wrapping. And if they want to keep selling those cookies, they have to make sure they stay fresh. One of the best ways to do that is with a heat sealer.They come in many lengths, with and without cutters. The 8" and 12" sizes are most popular and the cutting option is desirable, but not necessary.
PRICE: $30-60 Get one HERE or HERE.


11. AIRBRUSH -- The airbrush has exploded on the cookie scene this year. Anyone who is anyone has an airbrush. Or at least wants one. Or at least wants to know someone who has one.
PRICE $60-300 Get the Pegasus HERE or try craft stores in your area for the Duff's brand airbrush. (Be sure to use your 40% off coupon!) And if you are considering getting a color starter kit to go with it, you can find one HERE. Not ready for the whole set-up? Get them some cans of Wilton spray like THESE. (Silver, Gold, and Pearl are the most popular colors)


12. BUN PAN RACK -- Remember how they have all those half sheet pans and need more? Remember how you *used* to have a dining room table? Get a bun pan rack and solve both problems. If they make more than 10 -15 dozen cookies in a week or just have way too much cookie "things" scattered in every corner of your house, they might need the taller size. As an added bonus... it also doubles as a scooter for small children. 
PRICE: $70-180 Get the full size HERE and the half size HERE. Local restaurant supply places may also have some on hand.


13. KOPYKAKE PROJECTOR -- If they don't have one, they want one. Even if they tell everyone they don't need it...you can be sure that they would be dancing the waltz if one showed up on their doorstep. Even if they don't know the waltz. In fact, they would learn the waltz just for this projector. The 300XK is the most popular model and the K1000 is the high-end luxury model. Just in case that was important to you to know.
PRICE: $170-430 Check HERE or HERE first. They usually have the best prices. Not that I check. Often.


14. GIFT CARDS -- And if you hate all of my ideas. Or they already have ten jillion of all of them... go for the ever versatile gift cards. Here are some great places to get gift cards for cookie decorators --

Karen's Cookies  (Use coupon code holiday2012 to save 15%)
Also try your local craft store or grocery store. (Butter doesn't grow on trees, you know.)


And to all of you listening in from the hallway -- What did I miss? Is there a better deal somewhere we should tell them about? Let me know!


Need some more ideas? Check out these great lists --

40 Gift Ideas for the Cookie Lover (The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Drummers Drumming and Korea Tour Day 12


AND THE WINNER of the Copper Gifts 12 Days of Christmas Cookie Cutter set is... 

Dotty from Sugar Dot Cookies who said:

 " I'd love to win this set!  I love how you designed them!
Please keep the Korea tour going!
Thanks Georganne!"

Congratulations Dotty and THANK YOU to everyone who entered.... and to everyone who let me talk about Korea for 12 days in a row. You're the best!


Wow. 12 days. I'm kind of impressed with myself that I actually posted all of them. Oh sure, I took a day off in the middle to really find myself, but I came right back and just powered through. And now that we're here, I'm not altogether sure that I'm ready for it to end. Actually, I totally am. I get all stressed out when I set imaginary deadlines for myself and I convince my fragile emotional state that you will all hate me if something happens and I don't post. So then I start talking to myself all afternoon while I'm actually pretending to talk to you as a warm-up for the post that I will write later that night. And my kids think I'm weird. And also, my husband thinks I'm weird. But he would never say that, because he kind of likes me. A lot. I'm pretty sure of it.



1. Outline the drum with a #2 tip and thick black icing. I found it easiest to start with the bottom edges of both rims and then the top edges and the middle part last. Let it dry for 30 minutes or so. You know, just long enough to enter the giveaway here and at CopperGifts.
2.  Fill everything in, being careful not to overfill the lines. Let dry overnight.
3. Pipe a straight line with thick gold icing and a #2 tip. Pause at the end to create the tip of the drumstick. Let it dry for 15 minutes.
4. Pipe a zig-zag across the front of the drum with thick white icing and a #2 tip. Finish with the last drumstick.
5. Show your creations to everyone you know. (Not pictured.)

KOREA TOUR DAY 12

When I first started, I wasn't sure that I could fill 12 days of posts with pictures of Korea. And now, I find that I have too many pictures and things I want to show you. I had a really hard time narrowing it down. And there are still a lot of pictures. But I know you just want to go enter that contest, so I'll try to be quick.

They have lots of ponds here in Korea. And all of the bigger ponds have duck boats. Seriously, every one of them. They are paddle boats and you can rent them for 20 minutes. And there is NEVER anyone renting them. Except my children.

 There are NOT, however, a lot of parks here. Space is a bit of a premium, as I am sure you can tell by the incredible number of tall apartment buildings. But there are lots of rivers. And next to every river is a river walk. This river actually has 3 parallel sidewalks that go along the river. This is the middle one. There is one higher and one lower. Everyone exercises, and walks, and talks and socializes on the river walk. It's where you go. They have playgrounds and exercise equipment and AEROBIC CLASSES for crying out loud. And people are nice and chatty. And if you go... you should go at night. That's when life slows down and people notice other people.

75% of Korea is mountainous. That's a lot. The mountains really are pretty. And again, at the very top of most of them... you will find exercise equipment. So no matter how proud of yourself you are for climbing to the top of that huge mountain, you're always going to feel rather pathetic when you take that last ragged breath and look over to see some old grandma working out on the elliptical a few meters away.

In case you are wondering, this is what the grocery store ads look like. This particular store has a very interesting sales method. On the back it will have pictures of 5 groups of items. The first group is on sale on Monday, the next on Tuesday...and so on through the week. It took me a while to figure it out. Not that I ever really acted on that information once I figured it out...

And this is what my children look like at the grocery store...and pretty much everywhere else in South Korea for that matter. I know it's a super-blurry picture, but they kept moving and laughing and talking to my infant. My infant who has since grown up believing that every single person in the world adores her and wants to take her picture and smile at her.

Also, you should know that you can buy octopus at the grocery store if you want to. These are about $30 each. And, I have no idea how you cook them. We always just bought the pre-cooked kind. I'm not kidding you. My husband actually likes it.

McDonald's delivers. On motorbikes. Actually, nearly every single establishment of any kind (food, plumbing, fabrics...etc) delivers. On motorbikes.

There are shopping districts here. If you want to buy a wedding dress, you go to the wedding neighborhood. Every store in Daegu that sells wedding dresses is in that neighborhood. But the neighborhoods are extremely specific. Hammers are in one neighborhood and nails are in another. You can buy office chairs down one street but the office desk street might be on the other side of town. This is the flower district. I know it looks like a regular ol' flower store. Because it is. But it is next to 30 more regular ol' flower stores. And one big flower mall. 3 floors of flowers. And they all sell the same things. Right next to each other.

They also sell produce out of trucks with speakers. They drive slowly down the streets with a recording that says what they are selling and how much you can expect to pay for it. Produce is sold in these bowls all over South Korea.

This is how they clean the streets. A big truck comes and sprays a lot of water on the road. And then those two guys with branch-stick brooms sweep the dirt off the road. And then the truck sprays it again and they sweep it again over and over until the street is clean. And then they move on.

Monsoon season is no joke here. It comes out of nowhere and rains for weeks. My husband and I learned very quickly here that if you walk outside and people are carrying umbrellas on a completely cloudless day... you go back inside and get your umbrella too.

Because when it starts raining...it POURS. While we were at this restaurant, it rained so hard that it covered two lanes of traffic...and the EXIT to the parking lot. Luckily, it was a nice restaurant and we didn't mind staying for a while.

Also, I've learned that many of the Asian stereotypes are around because they are real. Like...sumo wrestling, apparently.

And gorgeous and intricate paper lanterns that are simultaneously gorgeous and terrifying dragons that also breathe fire. They really exist here in South Korea. It's a country of history and tradition and people that take care of each other. I love this country.

Tell me-- What's YOUR favorite thing about YOUR country?

CLICK HERE to see all 12 Days of Christmas.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pipers Piping and Korea Tour Day 11



My son isn't really aware that Christmas presents exist before Christmas Day. He's never asked about them and he never looks for them. It was a thing of beauty... until today. I had big plans to retrieve some toys from my vehicle while he was distracted in his bedroom, playing with his sister. I even tried to time the opening of the door with their happy giggles, but he was too clever for me. Just as I had precariously filled my arms with toys ready to be taken to my super-top-secret hiding place in the shed, I caught sight of his eyes peering out the front door. So I tossed everything back into my vehicle and announced that I had just finished loading it with donations for the orphanage. And then he brought me one of his cars to add to the pile. So....basically he's a saint, and I'm a liar. Welcome to the Christmas Season.

1. Outline the cookie using a #2 tip and thick black icing. Start with the front arm (I highlighted it in yellow. You know, in case the word "front" was confusing.) Everything else makes sense once you have that in place. After the arm, I did the shirt and the pants, then the hair, the face, and then the remaining detail lines. If you can... try not to make his leg wonky like I did.
2. Fill in half of the spaces and then take a break to make some popcorn. (Just me? Go ahead and skip to step 3.)
3. Fill in the other areas and let dry overnight.
4. Add tiny little black dots for the eyes and some holes on the pipe. Give him some rosy little cheeks and you are DONE.


KOREA TOUR DAY 11

 

If you came to visit me in South Korea, I would take you on a walk in Waegwan. I lived there for 2 years.


And I think I walked down every street in the entire town.



The neighborhood streets aren't so big in Korea. If you live in a house in a neighborhood, you have to park your car outside the neighborhood and walk to your house.Not everyone owns cars. Especially in towns this small.


This house was on the edge, so it was much easier to get a picture. This is a fairly standard house....except that you can't see the giant kimchi pots. They are probably around the left side. At night, the people in the home will sit outside on their platform and the neighbors will come join them. They will sit out there watching people go by well into the night. Because day time is for working. And night time is for people.


I kind of just wanted to rub it in that I saw this nearly every day of my life. This rice paddy is just a few hundred meters from my apartment building.


This is the town of Waegwan. Population 29,000. And there are at least 10 apartment complexes like the one in the middle of this picture.


Welcome to main street. They are not afraid of color here. Or parking on the sidewalk. Or driving on the sidewalk for that matter.


And this is the market. A tiny version of this came to my apartment complex every Thursday. I could walk out my door and buy eggs and vegetables and snacks and sometimes clothes for my children or a winter coat....  I miss that.


The vendors on the main road of the market sell food. The side streets have everything else.


Nearly every walk in Waegwan ended with this tunnel. My apartment is on the other side. The train track is on top. Giant spiders live inside it. And sometimes.... cars drive through it. They have really small cars in Korea. And they drive them wherever they will fit.

CLICK HERE to see all 12 Days of Christmas.

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