Happy New Years 2020!

happy new years 2020
Mimosa flight

Goodbye to 2019

Happy New Years 2020! Which means it’s time to say goodbye to 2019. Last year, my Husband and I decided that we’d forgo alcohol for all of 2019. It was an idea my Mother-In-Law had, and we decided to join her. For me, it was no problem at all, as I’m not a very big drinker. My Husband John though, loves his Corona after a hard day of working, be it on the house, or his day job.

The only time I missed alcohol

On the other side of town from me, is a restaurant called The Egg Bistro. I’ve never actually eaten there, because I have a 4-year-old son that acts like a heathen in public. On their brunch menu though, they have a mimosa flight that allows you to choose 4 of your favorite flavors. I love champagne, and I’ve been wanting to try this mimosa flight for more than a year now.

Mimosa Flight

A huge thanks to Walmart and Juicy Juice, for their large selection of champagnes and fruit juices. For the main ingredient, I went with Barefoot Bubbly’s moscato spumante champagne. Because I haven’t had any alcohol in 365 days (boozy tequila chocolate bark doesn’t count right?) I decided to only choose 4 flavors of fruit juice. From left to right in the photo: white cranberry peach, regular orange juice, strawberry kiwi, and mango. All were delicious, but my favorite is the mango.

Drink Responsibly

Happy New Years 2020! Please drink responsibly, and drive safely. You are loved and would be missed. You have many great options with which to choose from. Every year, AAA offers free towing with their Tipsy Tow campaign. You can also utilize Uber, Lyft, or your friendly Designated Driver to all get you home safely.

Finding Cookie Decorating Ideas Anywhere

Finding cookie decorating ideas can happen literally anywhere. Recently this Holiday season, I was shopping at the Dollar Tree with my four-year-old. I prefer to grab little toys there, because in true 4-year-old boy fashion, he’s going to destroy that toy within 6.3 seconds of arriving home. When you enter the store, you’re bombarded with holiday goodies and crafting supplies. We walked through the crafting supplies on the way to the toys, and there I found one of my cookie decorating ideas.

Inspiration

cookie decorating ideas
The idea I took for my snow globe cookies

The Dollar Tree has these adorable DIY ornaments that look like upside-down mason jars. They carry DIY snow globes as well if you have inkling towards a more rounded traditional globe. Next to the ornaments, they have fake snow, and a nice selection of figurines. I decided the snowman was ideal, and went with that.

At home, I already knew I was going to use my mason jar cookie cutter from Sweet Sugarbelle for these cookies. I got to work making the cookie dough, rolled it out, and started cutting.

Decorating the cookie

Most of my sugar cookies contain layers of royal icing. These snow globes are no different. I outlined and flooded the base, and painted the globe blue. After the paint was dry, I added more flood on top for the snowbank, and snowman. The next layer was to add snowflakes in varying sizes. The finishing touches are drawn with my Rainbow Dust Food Pen that I purchased from Amazon.

snow globe sugar cookies
The completed snow globe sugar cookies

Completed snow globe cookies

Finding cookie decorating ideas at the Dollar Tree, allowed me to create these fun and whimsical snow globe sugar cookies.

On a slighty different note, I was at Hobby Lobby yesterday and saw some adorable gingerbread stickers. I snapped a quick photo, so that I can use it as inspiration for next years gingerbread men.

Photography pointers

I leave you today with this parting gift of a inside look at how I achieved my finished photo. Have you ever looked at someone else’s cookie or food photo and wished you can put together the same look? I do this often, and I’m going share with you some little secrets. I purchased poster board from Walmart that has a wood grain design on it, and taped it to thick cardboard. At Hobby Lobby I purchased a bunch of random twigs of seasonal decorations such as pine cones, pine branches, red berries, etc. I purchased this tablecloth from Joann, and I just now saw that it’s on sale for under $3! Such a steal! I took a wine glass from my cabinet to place a focal cookie on top. Lastly, I used a large diffuser that I had on-hand from my old photography hobby, that diffuses the harsh light.

photo set up
Photo set up

Top 10 Beginner Cookie Decorating Tools

The top 10 beginner cookie decorating tools, is a list of tools I have put together to help beginner cookie decorators succeed at decorating sugar cookies. I’ve been decorating cookies for more than 12 years. I didn’t start out with all of these tools, but I’ve come to learn that some are simply invaluable to the cookie decorating trade.

top 10 cookie decorating tools
My top 10 beginner cookie decorating tools

Cookie Sheets and Silicone Baking Mats

Items number 1 and 2 on the list go hand in hand, so it’s worth talking about them together. The first item is a cookie sheet. It can be any cookie sheet, but I recommend a commercial grade half-sheet pan. The benefits to a commercial grade pan, is they won’t bend and warp when they get hot, and when they cool down. That’s good, because for every movement the pan makes, your cookies will be making that same movement. The cookies risk cracking, breaking, and eventually not laying flat. When I began decorating cookies all those years ago, I purchased commercial half-sheet pans from Williams Sonoma. I still use those very same pans today! They aren’t the pretty shiny aluminum pans they were so long ago (see photo above), but they’ve held up, never bending and warping.

To go along with the commercial half-sheet pan, you need a Silpat liner. A Silpat liner is a silicone mat that sits in the bottom of your cookie sheet. It’s completely non-stick, and reusable. It’s also not just for cookies, but can be used for anything, from roasted veggies and baked chicken, to breads, and whatever else you can come up with. I had also purchased my Silpat mats from Williams Sonoma, and can you believe I still use the same exact mats from over 12 years ago?! They’re amazing, truly!

Parchment paper

Let me begin by mentioning the parchment paper isn’t for baking. I sandwich the cookie dough between two pieces of the paper, which allows me to roll it quickly. I learned that the easiest way to do that was to purchase the Zenlogy half-sheets from Amazon. These Zenlogy sheets saved my sanity. Before I had these at my disposal, I was using the regular rolls of parchment that I would find in the grocery store. It was doable, but a pain, as the width was never perfect for my sheet pan. I would end up cutting a sheet slightly larger than I needed, then pressing the sides and corners in, which created lines I used as a cutting guide. Like I mentioned, very time-consuming. Using parchment isn’t the most Eco-friendly method, but I try to counteract my wastefulness by being diligent in other areas like recycling, and using reusable containers for my lunches.

Scribe

Scribes are, in my opinion, the second most important tool in your toolbox. They go by many names, like boo-boo stick, doohickey, “ouch I just stabbed myself with the tip again”, etc. You can keep it as simple as using a toothpick, or go fancy with beads and charms that give you more to grip onto. Scribes are used to pop air bubbles, push icing around, create designs when using wet-on-wet techniques, and scrape off mistakes. I’ll have a new DIY on YouTube and my Pinterest accounts, on how to make your own cookie scribe!

Cookie cutters

Cookie cutters are probably the most important item on the top 10 tools for beginner cookie decorators. Without a cutter, your cookie ceases to exist. If, like me, you become obsessed with decorating cookies, you’ll obtain an arsenal that contains hundreds of cutters. You don’t need hundreds though, especially when just starting out. There are a few I recommend though, such as a circle, hexagon, letters and numbers, and at least one plaque. I’m a huge fan of Sweet Sugarbelle and recommend her letter cutters, or any of her cutters really. My favorite plaque cutter at the moment is the Fancy Plaque by Ann Clark that you can find on Amazon, or by clicking here.

Tipless Bags and Edible Ink Pen

Tipless bags have changed my cookie decorating life. Seriously. I have mountains of tips and half as many couplers that hold the tips to the bag. The process works well, but is such a huge pain when it comes to removing both from the bag, and washing them. Tipless bags are something I learned about within the last year, and I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of them sooner. Tipless bags are typically a thinner material, which makes them perfect to grip onto and control. I get mine in packs of 200 from Amazon. For thicker frostings, like buttercream, I still purchase the thicker bags that Wilton sells. There are also a couple tips that I recommend you get, that can also be used directly in your bag without a coupler, and those are small circle tips, like the Wilton #2, and leaf tips.

Another invaluable took on the top 10 list of beginner cookie decorating tools is an edible ink food pen. You can find these everywhere! They carry them at Walmart, and every craft store I’ve ever walked into. I’ve tried them all, and I feel like nothing can touch the Rainbow Dust Food Pen. The pen has a super fine tip that produces a rich black color that’s perfect for adding lettering and other fine accents like eyebrows, and mouths.

Airbrush, Stencils, and Heat Sealer

To round out my top 10 list of beginner cookie decorating tools, I’m going to talk about an airbrush machine, stencils, and a heat sealer. These may not seem like beginner tools, but I’ll explain below why they’re on the list.

An airbrush machine is fairly new to me, but takes little knowledge to use right out of the box. It adds simple details that step up your cookies and makes you look like a professional. I bought this airbrush machine on Amazon because of the price and reviews. It’s worked very well for me with both regular airbrush colors, metallic colors, and diluted gel colors.

Stencils are also useful to use on decorated sugar cookies. Stencils can be used with an airbrush. Or they can be used with a thicker icing to apply images, lettering, or small accents to your sugar cookies. A beginner set that I feel covers all the basic design that you might want to use, is one sold by Sweet Sugarbelle. The buffalo plaid in this set is worth it’s weight in gold.

Last on my list of top 10 beginner cookie decorating tools is a heat sealer. I purchased this impulse sealer on Amazon, and this is a game changer! It’s not used specifically for cookie decorating, but it adds not only a professional-looking presentation for your cookies, it keeps them fresher longer, and free from environmental hazards…like hair, and scents. They’re also incredibly fun to use! When I first pulled it out of the box to use, I wanted to heat seal everything in my house!

There’s my Top 10 Beginner Cookie Decorating Tools. Happy decorating cookiers!

The Path to Decorated Sugar Cookies

Learning to cook

When I first started out in adulthood, I didn’t know much about cooking, and certainly knew nothing about baking. I had a family to feed, so I needed to at least figure out the cooking part so we weren’t living on fast food french fries and nuggets. There were many trials, and many errors, but there were also quite a few successes. After a few years, I had a pretty good arsenal of edible meals that I was able to recycle week to week.

Why I wanted to bake

Then came the kids. I have two Daughter’s from my first marriage, and a son from my current marriage. When my oldest Daughter turned school-aged, I decided to get a handle on the baking side of things. I wanted to be that Mom that brought in beautifully decorated cupcakes on Birthday’s; to be the Mom that supplied beautiful cake, cookies, and other desserts for bake sales held by the PTA; to bake adorable goodies for teacher gifts for the Holidays and Teacher Appreciation Week.

Learning to decorate cakes

I heard about cake decorating classes that Michael’s craft stores offered, so I decided to give that a try. I started with the beginners class and learned a lot of basic decorating skills. With that knowledge, I began making cakes that were covered in star tips, with an occasional rose thrown in to show off my awesome new skills. I had a few friends that asked for some star tipped cakes, and I began an obsession with looking for Wilton character pans so I can make even more star-tipped cakes. Then it happened…a friend asked for a race car cake that was three dimensional. The design was for the Lowe’s sponsored stock car, which at the time, was driven by Jimmie Johnson, the favorite of my friend’s Husband.

Why I prefer cookies to cakes

I’m a perfectionist at heart, especially when it’s regarding items I’ve created. Have you seen a Nascar stock car? Have you noticed the sponsor logos they have on the cars, like STP, USG, etc? This is where I clearly lost my mind, because I was trying to miniaturize as many as I could to give it that realistic look. I wish I could remember the details of the cake, but this was more than 12 years ago. I remember doing many of the sponsor logos, but got wore out and eventually gave up on doing all of them. That cake took me roughly 8 hours to bake and design. Eight. Whole. Hours. The time it took me to complete the cake, changed my outlook on wanting to bake at all.

Decorating sugar cookies

Then I got to thinking…What if I took the design concepts I learned from the cake decorating class, and applied them on a smaller scale? I found a recipe for royal icing in a Wilton magazine, used to decorate sugar cookies. Of course, it wasn’t easy as I thought it would be, and like everything else in life, it was a learning process. That was back in roughly 2005. My very first attempt at decorated sugar cookies was pink hearts for Valentine’s Day. Nothing fancy at all, just pink royal icing on a sugar cookie. The consistency was off and it was chunkier than it should have been and not very smooth. At that point, I knew nothing of scribe tools, or timing the consistency of the icing viscosity in seconds. Photographing my finished creations was an issue I needed to address as well.

My first ever decorated sugar cookies

Perseverance has paid off. I had to start somewhere, and from that moment until now, I’ve grown my skills, perfected my sugar cookie and icing recipes, and also learned how to take better photos. I still continue to grow, and I still learn new things everyday about creating a beautiful sugar cookie. The process can be challenging, but I love everything about it…except perhaps the dishes.

One of my most recent batch of decorated cookies