Thursday, March 28, 2013

How To Stencil Spring Cookies

I really like to bake, especially for holidays. Since I only do it for fun I don't have hundreds of different cutters, so I like to use the same cutters in different ways. 

This week I'm baking spring/Easter cookies shaped like bunnies, flowers, and butterflies. I made some standard cut-out cookies and topped with royal icing, then experimented with some "sandwich" cookies with cut-out windows in those same shapes. Then I decided to try creating a cookie stencil. Here's how you can do it, too.

Of course you'll want to bake your cookies before you start this decorating part! I've shared my favorite sugar cookie recipe before, but you can use your own or use cookie dough from the store. (You can also use this tip to decorate pre-baked cookies.) I used a round scalloped cutter for my stenciled cookies; you could also use egg shapes, circles, squares, anything you'd like. Just make sure the cookie shapes are larger than the shape you'll be using for a stencil.

If you want your stenciled design on an iced cookie, prepare your cookies by outlining and flooding with royal icing, then allow them to dry before you start the following steps.

1. Choose the cookie cutter shape you'd like to stencil with, and trace the cutter onto a piece of paper. Cut a square of parchment or wax paper a bit larger than your final cookie size, and place it over your traced image. Use an x-acto knife to "trace" the image, cutting through the parchment or wax paper. Your stencil will look something like the one below right. Repeat this process for the other shapes you'll be using.

2. Prep your royal icing for stenciling. Use your favorite royal icing recipe, then thin it to the consistency of thick paint. Place the stencil over the cookie, and with your brush (I use Wilton's decorator brushes) gently apply the icing to the cookie, brushing from outside the stencil's cut edge toward the center of the design (see photo 1 below). Be careful not to move the stencil or to push the icing under the stencil's edge. Once you've filled the stencil shape with icing, gently lift the stencil off the cookie and set aside.

3. Choose your sprinkles or colorful sugar and shake onto the icing. Make sure you cover every bit of icing (see photo 2 above). Lift and tap cookie to remove extra sprinkles and reveal your shape (photo3 above). Allow to dry completely before wrapping. 

Wrap cookies in cello with colorful ribbons for gifting, or plate with other spring designs and colors. Next time I think I'll try colored sugars, or I may paint the edges of the cookies with icing and roll in my sprinkles to make a colorful border.

Do you like baking cookies for Easter or spring? What are your favorite shapes?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Baby Sprinkle Invitations and Favors

I recently created some personalized favors for a baby sprinkle. When I first read about this type of party a few years ago, I had one of those, "Why didn't *I* think of that?" moments. It's such a clever idea, really. If you've never attended (or heard of) this type of shower, here are 8 things you need to know about baby sprinkles.

1. What is a baby sprinkle? 
Whether you're a meteorologist or a party planner, a sprinkle is just a little shower.

2. When do you have a sprinkle?
A baby sprinkle celebrates the new arrival when the mom-to-be is expecting her second (third, fourth...) child. You can plan to have the party before the baby arrives (around six weeks before the due date) or a month or more after.

Baby Sprinkle Invitations
3. Who hosts (and is invited to) a sprinkle?
Usually a friend or family member hosts, and close friends and family attend a sprinkle. Think small and intimate.

4. Why throw a baby sprinkle instead of a shower?
By the time they're expecting their second (or third) baby, families already have most of the baby gear they need. A sprinkle is a way to celebrate the new baby without a big emphasis on gifts.

5. What type of gifts are appropriate at a baby sprinkle?
Though optional, diapers, baby wipes, bath and body products, and other "consumable" items are perfect gifts for a sprinkle. If the new baby is the opposite gender, you might also choose a gender-specific outfit or other item that you know they wouldn't have saved from the first baby.

Baby Sprinkle Favors
6. Should the parents-to-be register?
Again, this is totally optional. If you do, make sure to select items in a range of prices. Many guests will want to share a little something with the baby; but remember,  the emphasis is on celebrating the new arrival!

7. Where can I find baby sprinkle invitations? 
Zazzle has lots, including our own "Sprinkled with Love" cupcakes. Choose your favorite design and have them personalized for your day. You can often find coordinating stickers and other matching stationery and gifts, too.

8. What about baby sprinkle favors?
Favors are optional and often not included in a baby sprinkle, but if you choose to share sprinkle favors with your guests, we'd love to work with you! Here are some of our baby sprinkle favor designs for lip balms, lotions, bath gels, and more. Please contact us if you have any questions!

Have you ever been to a baby sprinkle? Please share your experiences and ideas in the comments!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Every Day Like Spring

Spring is coming, and as always I feel anything but "calm" about it.

Spring means longer, warmer, greener days, more time outside, open windows, waking gardens. All of those things are exciting! What was that Mahler talking about??

A quick look at Mahler's life tells us that while he made his living as a conductor, he loved composing. When he was 33, he spent the summer at a retreat at Steinbach, working on his compositions. He composed every summer for the rest of his life.

Is this why spring made him calm? Was he looking forward to the time he would get to spend on his own work (instead of fighting with colleagues or listening to the complaints of opera singers and musicians)?

What happens when you get to do the work you love every day instead of in stolen moments or planned retreats? Do you have a life you need to "escape" from? Is every day like spring? What do you think?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Printable: St. Patrick's Day Bookmarks

Printable Clover Bookmarks for St. Patrick's Day
Have you ever seen a four leaf clover? Most clover plants contain the standard three leaves, which represent faith, hope, and love. That clover with the fourth leaf (by some estimates one in ten thousand plants) is so rare that finding one takes luck.

Click to download this PDF Bookmark File!
Share some luck with a friend this St. Patrick's Day with our printable bookmarks! Download the Clover Bookmark PDF file and print onto card stock paper. Each sheet contains a total of four bookmarks in two different designs, and features a real four leaf clover photographed in my garden!

Once you've cut out the bookmarks, embellish the tops with ribbons or twine, as shown below.

Cut twine in 10 inch pieces and then fold in half to create a loop. Punch a hole in the top center of the bookmark and insert the loop through one side, then thread the loose ends of the twine through the loop and pull to knot at the top. You can also thread a single loop of decorative ribbon through the hole and knot at the top (in our example, the twine loop went through from the back of the paper, and the ribbon loop went through the front).

For a bow look, punch two holes at the top and thread ribbon through both from the back.  Pull ends to make even, then tie into a single knot or a bow on the front and trim ends of ribbon as necessary.

You could embellish in lots of other ways, so feel free to be creative! Share with classroom kids, friends or neighbors, or tuck into gift books. For personal use only, please!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Strong Mind, Soft Heart

Even if you work for yourself (as I do), it is impossible not to work with other people. Of course most people enjoy working with their customers and clients, as well as colleagues, mentors, and teachers. But we also have to "work" with the insurance company, the customer service guy from the credit card bank, the internet service provider—so many other (often challenging) people. How can we successfully interact with lots of different kinds of people?

In her book When Things Fall Apart, Buddhist nun and teacher Pema Chödrön writes, "As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others - what and whom we can work with, and how - becomes wider." According to Chödrön, then, that ability to work with more people starts with being "soft hearted" with yourself. But is this sensible advice? Isn't "softness" a sign of weakness? Perhaps it requires a strong mind to appreciate the soft heart?

A recent Facebook post by serial entrepreneur, author, and speaker Peter Shankman demonstrates the power of kindness. Logically, it wasn't weakness for him to be nice that day, since he ended up getting exactly what he needed and wanted. (He's actually written a whole book about it—Nice Companies Finish First, coming April 2). Common wisdom tells us you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but is there something more going on here? Is this what Maya Angelou meant when she said, "The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination"?

Religious and ethical traditions the world over share some version of the Golden Rule, encouraging us to love others as we love ourselves. Maybe this practice of being soft-hearted really has to start with us, as Pema Chödrön said? This week I'm thinking about how it helps me work with people better if I'm soft hearted—with them as well as with myself.

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing is so gentle as true strength." - Ralph Sockman

How do you show compassion for yourself? Do you find it easier to feel soft-hearted for other people when you start with yourself?

Friday, March 01, 2013

Flavor of the Month March 2013

This is the sixth month of our Flavor of the Month experiment. Have you tried any of our new flavors in tubes?

January's Margarita was followed by February's Valentini. This month I'm excited to bring back one of our most popular flavors. This balm sells out quickly every time we offer it! Perfect for kids or grown-ups, Gummy Bear is fruity and sweet! Pick one up this month—after March they'll be gone!

Do you have any favorite flavors you'd like to see featured? Please contact me and let me know!

Want to see our new flavors as soon as we post them? Why not subscribe to our blog by email or reader? Thanks so much for your interest!


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