Saturday, December 22, 2012

Family Christmas Collection, 2012

The gifts are wrapped, cards are sent, baking is finished, groceries are purchased, my Mother and Father arrive from out of town today, Christmas is finally here.  Christmas Eve at our house is low key.  I will prepare food for Christmas dinner, attend mass and have dinner out with my husband, Mom and Dad.

Christmas Day is quite the opposite.  We will have 30 guests ranging in age from 85 to 2.  Oh what fun it is. . .

The cookies are ready.  I had big plans this year including 3d cookies and some new and unusual designs, but I ran out of time.  The family is happy with whatever I do so I stuck to some tried and true designs with just a few new ideas.

 I added a few new Snowmen to the family favorite.

 Every year the family collection includes Santa and reindeer in unusual shapes.  This year I decided to add Mrs. Santa because we all know the Mrs. Santas in every family deserve far more credit at this time of year.  Her lips look like perhaps she received Botox as a gift, you go girl!
 My traditional way of decorating snowflakes are the ones in the upper left and lower right corners, but I tried some new designs this year that were inspired by Good Housekeeping magazine.

 Traditional designs and lots of minis.
In light of recent events, I'm sure most of us are finding it easy to count our blessing this year.  For me it is extremely easy.   At this time last year:
  •  My great-niece Kaley (17) was unable to talk and every muscle and bone ached.  Doctors were baffled.  Finally, she was diagnosed with Lyme's disease and today she is healthy and looking forward to graduation from high school.
  • Kaley's sister, Kendall (15), was diagnosed with a tumor on her pituitary gland.  Today she is healthy.
  • Kaley and Kendall's first cousin, Logan (15), was diagnosed with Hodkins Lymphoma.  After 6 months of chemo, he has had two PET scans that show no signs of cancer.
Prayers of thanks for good health, a loving family and a circle of wonderful, caring friends. . .

A few of the Great nieces and nephews posed for a photo before eating their cookies.

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Collection, 2012

For friends who celebrate Hanukkah
Christmas cookies for friends. . .some like traditional, some like pastel
For friends who prefer warm weather

 Elf on the Shelf for the little ones in the family.  Since I only made 4 of these, I pieced them together without a cutter.   The faces are too round and I think they look like creepy clowns.  My friend, Kathy,  stopped over while I was finishing them and said, "You made that creepy Elf on the Shelf guy." Success!  If Kathy thinks they look like Elf, I am sure the kids will be happy with them.

I received an email from a friend asking if I could make 2 dozen cookies for her to share with her Grandchidren.  She explained that she bought personalized Christmas dough ornaments at a craft fair of their favorite characters, Snow White and Thomas the Train. Her granddaughter was disappointed to learn that she couldn't EAT the ornament.  We agreed that I would make a traditional collection of Santas, reindeers, trees and snowmen.

As I prepared to make her cookies, I thought perhaps I could make Thomas and Snow White.  I didn't have a lot of time, so I limited myself to one try for each cookie.  SW's eye and nose are a bit messy, but it was free hand and it is EDIBLE!

Lisa, The Bearfoot Baker, convinced me to make the full body Santa cookie for the annual Women's Club Christmas party this year.

. . . and finally, dream vs. reality.  I gave this set to a friend who loves the beach on the first day that it snowed in Chicago this year.  I was able to fit 4 individually wrapped snowflakes in the gift boxes that were a gift from Donna, Carroll's Cookies and Crumbs.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Merry "Beach"mas

Twenty years ago I moved into a new home, in a western suburb of Chicago, just three months after the neighbors next door.  Beth and I eventually got to know each other and I am confident we will be friends for life.

Beth (right) and me
Our friendship is an unlikely one, an odd couple of sorts.  When we met I was working full time, she stayed home to raise her children.  She's a Mom, I am not.  I'm a city gal, she's a suburbanite.  Our age gap is 13 years.  The differences go on and on, however, Beth has become the kid sister that I never had.

We were friends and neighbors for 10 years, then we both moved to new locations, again, within three months of each other.  Beth moved further west for better schools for her children and I moved back to Chicago to be closer to my family. The miles between us have not altered the friendship.

One thing we have in common is our love of warm weather, blue skies and beautiful beaches.  My dream would be to live near Keawekapu beach in Maui, Hawaii.  Beth's dream location is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Dreams are wonderful, but if they come true there will be even more miles between us, however, I suspect that travel arrangements could be made.

For Christmas this year, I am sending her a little beach of her own.  I had so much fun making beach cookies  last summer that I decided to fashion it into a tree for the Christmas season.

Merry Christmas friend.  I wish you peace, joy, love and dreams of warm beaches. . .

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas

I am a traditionalist when it comes to the holidays.  In my ideal world, all pumpkins, turkeys and scarecrows would disappear before I saw a Christmas tree or snowman.  However, I am trying to adjust to this era of Black Friday shopping, Thanksgiving and Christmas blending and the reality that by the time we celebrate the "twelfth day of Christmas", Valentines will be everywhere.  Cards are written, many gifts are wrapped, and I will decorate the house this week.  I've got the Christmas music playing as I begin to bake the  holiday cookies.

A friend asked for some snowmen and snowflakes attached to an enveloped of instant hot cocoa.  I added some curly ribbon and a little jingle bell to the package.

Although I usually decorate cookies with a smooth surface, I am trying to add some dimension as I did in the mini snowmen.  Alas, I continue to be plagued by the dreaded craters in my frosting.  In this case, they were easily hidden with some sanding sugar that actually enhanced their appearance.  Too bad, this little trick will not work every time the nasty craters appear in my designs.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Happily Ever After

My dear friends, Jim and Brian, have been a couple for 22 years.  They recently celebrated their love in a civil union and my husband and I were honored to be their witnesses.  It was an unseasonably warm, fall day in October that allowed us to enjoy an outdoor luncheon amidst the bright, colorful foliage.  After a long trip to celebrate the union, Jim and Brian are hosting a small reception tonight for a few friends.

Although Thanksgiving is behind us and it seems that everyone is rushing into the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I decided that since the ceremony was on such a beautiful day and it is still November, a collection of fall cookies would be the theme for the reception.

Wishing you many more happy years together, love you both. 

A towel found at a discount store was the inspiration for my centerpiece cookie.

Thick royal icing was used to give dimension to the tree trunk and food markers were used for the initials.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bill's Retirement

I have known my brother-in-law, Bill, most of my life.  We went to grade school together, he lived just a few blocks away, he started dating my sister in high school and he has been the brother that I never had.

Bill recently retired after a 40 year career as an ornamental iron worker.  During that time he helped to change the Chicago skyline. The installation of the antennas high atop the Hancock Building, supervising remodeling work at both Wrigley Field and Soldier Field and consulting on the design and installation of the Gargoyles perched on the public library are just a few of his achievements.

I thought about trying to recreate some of these places in cookie form, but I decided that retirement is a time to look toward the future and all the new opportunities that are ahead.  The result is an eclectic collection of cookies that reflect the leisure activities that he enjoys, the places he loves to visit and the things he values most in life.

Congratulations Bill!  You've worked hard, now it's time to play hard.

Monday, November 19, 2012

It's Turkey Time

A few weeks ago I traveled to western Illinois to spend time with my wonderful friend, Donna.  We had good food, a little wine, and long talks that included cookie decorating.

During the weekend we discussed plans for Thanksgiving and what cookie designs we were going to make.  Of course, it wouldn't be the traditional holiday without turkeys, so Donna and I brainstormed and came up with the idea of combining turkeys with football, another holiday tradition.

Over the years I've made a variety of turkey cookies, so it was nice to have something new to create.

Since I will be heading from Chicago to Packer territory for the holiday, both the Bears and Packers are represented.  I also tried to make them somewhat whimsical to reflect the silly turkey in the book,  Blue Hat, Green Hat, by Sara Boynton.  In our family it is lovingly referred to as, the "Oooops book" because that's what the turkey says throughout the story.

The turkeys are wearing numbers that represent the ages of children in the family.  My great-niece, Leann, likes to say, "I'm 4 AND A HALF."  The upside down turkey wearing the colors of both teams is for Elliot.  He's very diplomatic and cheers for both teams, but he's only 2.

If your family is like ours, your Thanksgiving dinner will be served with a side of football.  However, one thing that I know I will be grateful for this year is that the Bears and the Packers are not playing each other on the holiday.

You can view Donna's turkeys here.

Enjoy the holidays with your family and friends.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fall Is In the Air

Sure signs of fall--Football; Halloween is over; the World Series has been won; we've set the clocks back; the neighborhood is decorated with a mix of Jack-o-Lanterns, Scarecrows and Turkeys; the stores at the mall have Christmas decorations and long hours; and we have finally elected our President.  In the cookie world, it's my favorite season!

Thanks to Sweet Sugar Belle for providing an easy step-by-step tutorial to create these simple and elegant cookies.

A few gift bags to share with special friends this weekend.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pink Baby Shower

A simple set of baby onesies in pink and white for baby shower favors.  I decided to try making some RI transfers to use as flower embellishments, but I decided that I didn't like the deep coral color with the soft baby pink.  Sometimes less is more.

Ooops, the piping line broke so I added a few dots to fill in the space.
Every flower looks different, but that's the way they look in nature, right?  The color was a deep coral, not quite as red as they appear in this photo.  I definitely need some practice if I want to stop buying pre-made flowers and use my own.
All dressed up for the party!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Friends

 One of my dearest friends recently introduced me to the game, Words with Friends, and I am now addicted. I was never much of a Scrabble player, so I am surprised at how much I enjoy this internet game.  Since Kathy and I had a lunch date this week, I couldn't resist adding some WWF tiles into her Halloween cookie mix. Trick or Treat to a dear friend.

Kathy(l) and me--friends for 40 years.

I was inspired by Sugar Dot who recently posted photos of  Scrabble tile cookies (link).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Witch's Brew

Last summer, I received a jar cookie cutter as a gift and thought I'd use it as part of my Halloween cookie collection this year.   Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Witchy Woman!

Why is it that when I make cookies "just for fun" they turn out to be some of my favorites?  A hint of disco dust on the hats is not very visible in the photo, but adds a nice glimmer to the design.

A Family of Giraffes

I have a love-hate relationship with this cookie cutter.  Loved him so much that I was determined to add him to my collection even though I had to figure out how to get him to travel all the way from Australia to Chicago, Illinois, USA  link.  Hate him because he is so darn tempermental.  If the neck doesn't break while cutting, it breaks after baking.  If the neck doesn't break, watch out for the antlers.

Last Christmas, I made a few of these adorable reindeer and then retired the cutter to the Christmas cookie cutter box.  Little did I know that he would be quite a popular guy in the summer when he reappeared on Sweet Sugar Belle's blog as a giraffe.

When a friend called and asked for giraffe cookies for a baby shower, I was happy to do them.  Although I've never made giraffes before, I knew that very little planning would be needed because I could go directly to SSB's blog and follow her clear, step-by-step instructions link.  Of course, I couldn't just stick to the reindeer cutter, I had to try one of the alternative cutters that SSB suggested, so I used the reindeer and 2 different pineapples to make my family of giraffes.
Baby has Dad's face and Mom's eyes
Daddy giraffe is quite large and while decorating I kept seeing Fred Flintstone's Dino or a big purple dinosaur! 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Kaley's Senior Night

Kaley just celebrated her 17th birthday, is a senior in high school, a cheerleader, a softball player, a coach for Special Olympics, a member of the National Honor Society and the oldest of my great nieces and nephews.  Can you tell that I am just a bit proud to be her great-Aunt?

Tonight is Senior Night with special recognition for the senior members of the football team, cheerleaders,  marching band,  and pom-pon squad.  It's going to be chilly out there, but I will be watching, cheering and probably shedding a few tears thinking about how fast she has grown up.
One of my favorite things about baking cookies is the opportunity to create designs to celebrate the special events in the lives of my family and friends.  I always try to think of something new that will surprise the kids in the family on their special days.

The stick figure cheerleaders were free hand and I think they will make Kaley smile her very special smile.   

For years I have admired the stadium cookies that I have seen on line, so this was a great opportunity to make my version of the design.

Love and cheers to a very special girl!
Kaley with Mom and Dad

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