Monday, February 28, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Cookies & A Free Printable

St. Patrick's Day cookies! My friend Shilpi let me have a playdate with her 9-year-old daughter, Sonia and she and I baked up a storm! It made for a really fun cookie baking day! She did such a wonderful job too! Since my daughter is 27 years old, I forgot how much fun it is to have a little girl to hang out with.
We made Clovers...
and Pots of Gold...
and Green Beer Mugs...
and Leprechauns
I also made this fun St. Patrick's Day tag for the cookie bags. Please feel free to print it out for yourself and add it to your own baked goodies. Just click on the printable below to print it out:
I'm a whole lot of Irish, so this will be a fun holiday for me to bake! I even had a dog named Sean Patrick Ducey when I was growing up :-) 
Enjoy everyone!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fast Food Cookies & Bike Ride

I gave out cookies on the ride today. Fast food cookies. I'm a very strict vegetarian and have been for at least 35 years. I also don't like greasy food. I have a sweet tooth instead. That's really my only vice. The guys on the rides however, always talk about fast food, so I thought it would be fun to make fast food cookies.
They put the cookies in their back pockets and we rolled. Rolling is a term both my baking friends and my cycling friends use, but with different meanings ;-) 

The ride today was almost 49 miles long. The wind wasn't freezing cold like Monday's ride and the pace was much more manageable. We climbed up Bailey and when I got to the top, I went back down to ride with some riders still on the hill. We then climbed Buffalo and again, at the top, I went back down to ride with the others. There were two gals that hadn't ridden in a long time, so I chatted with them while they climbed to the top. Four people in the group decided to shorten the route. I decided to stick with the original route and try to keep up with the fast guys. This left me as the only girl on the ride. Ugh. I hate that. At 11:19, I told the guys that I was not going to stop at the rest stop so that I could get a head start and they wouldn't have to wait for me at the top of the next hill. They said ok. At 11:20 I could see them coming through the mirror on my helmet. What the heck? Thanks for less than a minute of a head start! At 11:25, they passed me. 

Lesson learned: the guys just see me as a pink rabbit for the hounds to chase after! 

At the lunch stop, we waited about an hour, but the four cyclists that had shortened the route, never joined us. We called and texted, but no response. It turned out that two of them crashed. They were in a tight paceline and one of them hit into the tire of the bike in front of her. In almost every scenario, this makes the cyclist in the back crash, not the one that was hit into. So she went down. Then the cyclist behind the one that crashed, couldn't stop in time so she crashed too. They both have slight injuries and road rash, but are going to be ok. 

It's supposed to rain here tomorrow and possibly snow(!) Friday and Saturday, so I will likely be home working in my office and getting some baking time in. Have a great day all!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ordered Kitchen Aid Mixer FINALLY - guess which one?

My wonderful  husband told me to purchase a Kitchen Aid mixer for myself for Valentines Day. My old mixer was giving out and the squeaking sound was making him and my son crazy. I had it narrowed down to either the 6-quart more powerful model in Pearl Metallic to match my stainless steel appliances or the 5-quart prettier model in PINK to match my WORLD ;-) I have asked all my friends and debated and researched comments on both models and finally ordered one last night. Which one did I decide on? Lets see if you can figure it out...
This is my old mixer working very hard. Notice the pink KitchenAid bowls in the shelf under my mixer stand. Notice the candy jars on the right all with silver lids. Ugh. Getting nowhere so far...
Notice all those jars with tons of sanding sugar for cookie decorating (thanks for the tip Callye!). Those all have silver lids. Oh but notice those pretty pink plates. Still not getting anywhere... see why this has taken me so long to make a decision?
These are the cupboards I use to store my 316 cookie cutters. Hmm lots of pink and no silver here (although there are some tin cookie cutters in the drawers).
Yep, that's my KopyKake Projector. Still getting used to it, but it doesn't help here since it's neither pink nor silver. But hey, look at that adorable sign from my friend Shilpi and her kids when I participated in the LiveStrong Challenge against Cancer - hey that's PINK...
This is my baking drawer. Hmmm that's an awful lot of pink in there. Okay one more...
I count 9 pink arrows and 4 silver arrows. Yep, you probably guessed right. I decided on the PINK Kitchen-Aid 5 quart mixer. I know a lot of people said to go for functionality over color, but those that truly know me said that if I don't get the pink one now, I'll never stop drooling over it. They were right. I'm so excited!!!
And part of the proceeds go to support the fight against Breast Cancer and we all know how I feel about helping those that fight the good fight against Cancer!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Root Beer Float Cookies

Root Beer Float anyone? I've been wanting to bake root beer float cookies for a long time. Why? Because I bought a cool root beer extract to add to them! So not only were these really fun to make, but just stand next to them and you have childhood memories of yummy root beer floats. They smell SO delicious! 

Nick and I shared a cookie to do a taste test together and YUMMMMM! This was definitely a successful project. I'm really happy with how they turned out.

It has not been sunny California here all week long since it's been raining and even hailing. Tomorrow we are finally supposed to have a break from all the rain. I was invited from friends to join them on a 100-mile bicycle ride. That would be my longest ride so far in 2011. I've been a bit paranoid as it includes some hard hills, including one hill that is 11-miles long and a pain even when I've been at my strongest. With the bad weather and cold we've had, my strength and endurance are not up to par. Well it's still raining here. A couple of us decided that even if it doesn't rain tomorrow, the roads will be wet and dangerous for those long descents. So I'll be doing some more baking tomorrow. I have another fun project in the works... stay tuned!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Day and NO Cookies?! Tips on Blogging

In case I haven't told you before, I'm a DORK. It is Valentines Day and I spent all week making beautiful Valentine cookies in every shape and design I could think of. Was I smart enough to put some aside for my family - uh nope. Dork! So Nick and I made Whoopie Pies tonight for the first time. I'm waiting for him to get home from karate class so that we can try them out in celebration of Valentines Day.
I woke up this morning to some pretty bad weather. With the roads all wet and dangerous, all the club bike rides got canceled. Since I decided not to bake cookies today and the ride was canceled, I knew it was going to be a productive day. I got lots of work done in my home office and I finally took the time to learn a lot about blogging. I had lots of people suggesting that I create a blog about my cookie baking. I know quite a bit of HTML and web design, but blogging was a whole new challenge. I started my blog on January 25th and have had almost 600 hits from friends, family, cookiers and cyclists. It's been a really fun learning experience.

From utilizing a lot of Google searches and reading lots of tutorials, I figured out how to offer email subscriptions to my readers... see that box over on the right hand side, sign up and you can get quickie emails of Cristin's Cookies updates. I changed my template. I made tabs of the pages. I changed the font and colors. I made a link to my Facebook page. I created a search box. I also finally figured out how to create a button that others can add to their blog. That one I've been trying for a while unsuccessfully. Once I got it down, I was able to add buttons of other blogs that I enjoy too. I labeled all my posts and made a list for easy reference. The biggest thing that I figured out is how to change that little orange & white blogger button into my own design. That was a mind-bender at first as my photo program provided challenges, but I was excited to finally get it right. It's called a "favicon" for those wanting to change theirs. You have to create an icon that is 16x16 pixels, save it as a .ico or .png file and add some coding to the html page and you're good to go. Do a search on Google "how to change blogger icon" and give it a try so yours can be personalized too.

I'm very happy with my new blog and hope you enjoy it too. Let me know what you think!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cycling & New Cookie Designs

This picture is not from today, but wanted to provide a recent cycling pic. Today's ride was 96 miles. After 4 days of constant baking and cookie decorating, I was pretty antsy to get out for a bike ride and this was my first long ride since Bass Lake in October. Here's the question of the day: when I come up with an idea, why do friends say "ok" instead of "Cristin that's a STUPID idea". Here's the stupid part, I thought it would be great to start the ride earlier and ride to the start location instead of driving. Smart people would point out that it's going to be miserable at 7am in the winter, but no, I had to figure that out the hard way. It was 39 flipping miserably cold degrees outside. My face stung, my fingers burned, I couldn't move my mouth to talk and my body was shivering. I was not amused. The good news is that only lasted about 90 minutes and once we got to climbing the hills, we warmed up and the sun came out and it was a wonderful ride.

At mile 47, I got a flat tire and was very proud to change the flat by myself while everyone stood around desperate to help, but I'm trying to learn to be more independent in cycling. I was worried about the long ride because I've lost strength and endurance since I haven't been riding lately. The 96 miles actually seemed somewhat easy today - is that possible? We rode at a comfortable pace and it was beautiful scenery. I even got home in time to watch my son's hockey game and it was a fun day all around.

Here are some photos of cookies that I made "just because". Notice the PINK Kitchen-Aid mixer. I still haven't decided between the pink 5-quart or the silver 6-quart. I really want the pink one and have wanted it for years, but I like the idea of a larger mixer with more power. I'm waiting to see if the price drops on Amazon after Valentines Day to help me decide.

 and these were some extra cookies for my son's birthday in his favorite - Gingerbread!

I hope you are all enjoying your weekend as much as I am! Take care, Pinkie

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chocolate Valentine Cookies - Taste Testers

In addition to the regular Valentine cookies, this week I also made CHOCOLATE cookies. Sorry to have to tell you this, but I HATE chocolate! I know, is there really such a thing as a woman that doesn't like chocolate? Yep. I don't like shopping either. I'm weird. I know. Although online shopping for cute cookie cutters is a whole different matter ;-) I'll let you in on a little secret - this is how much I don't like chocolate - if I eat candy, like those Reese Peanut Butter Trees that were available during the holidays, I actually take the time to pick off all the chocolate before I eat the peanut butter candy! Ridiculous right?! Okay so that meant that I needed taste testers for my chocolate cookies. Funny thing is that it wasn't too difficult to find volunteers ;-) The chocolate cookies were a hit, but everyone said they still prefer my regular cookies too, so I made a bunch of those for Valentines Day too.

I stayed in my house for 4 days straight and decorated cookies constantly. I need to figure out a way to not completely obsess on the project I'm working on. I guess that would take completely changing my personality... Happy Valentines Day everyone! I hope you get a sweet treat from your sweetie :-)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bubble Gum Party

Another successful party and I'm partied out. Two parties in one weekend and Super Bowl tomorrow is a lot. Yesterday's party was the video game theme for Nick to celebrate his birthday with friends and tonight's party with family to celebrate Nick's birthday was a Gum Ball theme. I ordered this cute Gum Ball cookie cutter from eCrandal and I was very happy with it.
I used Royal Icing for the black outline and then used my regular home recipe icing (similar to a glaze) for the rest. Since these were fun gum balls, I bought a gumball flavor extract and added that to the icing. They were a big hit at the party.
While the teenagers were asleep this morning, I snuck out for a 49-mile bike ride with my daughter. It was nice to get out of the house after all the time baking at home this week. Unfortunately my iPod battery wasn't fully charged and I realized how necessary it is for my peace and relaxation. Instead of comforting music during the ride, this is what I heard in my head for 49-miles "and I need to do this and this and this and this". Unless we're asleep, women never really stop do we?!

Nick was blessed with wonderful friends and a large, happy family all at our house this weekend to celebrate the day of his birth. We are truly blessed. Happy Birthday to my baby boy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How To Lesson - Quickie on How to Outline a Cookie

I have a bunch of new "cookier" friends that I just love sharing my latest obsession with, but most of my friends are not bakers. We are Cyclists or Martial Artists or school friends or just long-time buddies. From my non-baking buddies, I get a lot of questions on the basics of cookie decorating. So my son (turning 17 in a few days-wow!) took this quickie video on how to pipe an outline on a cookie:
I took my Road I.D. off my wrist just for that video, otherwise it's on 24/7. So can you guess what that cookie shape is? I'll give you a hint... it's for my son's birthday party this weekend and he's a video game junkie. Here's some pictures of what I've been working on the last couple days:
 Did you guess yet? Yep, those are all video game controllers: Nintendo Wii, Computers, Nintendo 64, X-Box and Playstation 3. I bought the video game controllers from eCrandal and the Computer from CopperGifts.
These pictures of Mario & the gang were all piped using my KopyKake Projector which I'm still getting the hang of. I found most of the pictures by Googling Mario, but I used SweetSugarBelle's picture of Yoshi  because he was a cuter & simpler design than the ones I found on Google. I finished all the cookies today, so after they dry tonight, I'll post the pictures tomorrow. Enjoy your evening!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

KopyKake Projector Cookies

These cookies were decorated using a KopyKake Projector. It projects an image onto the cookie so that you can trace it and decorate the cookie. The projector is a new (and expensive) toy for me as I've only had it a couple weeks and these cookies were my first attempt at using it. These are not perfect, but it was a good first pass at practicing using the projector. My niece came over for dinner last night and stole all 3 of these cookies right away ;-) oohing and aahing over them.

Like Sweet SugarBelle says, it is not a cure-all or a magic wand. You still have to work a lot at cookie decorating. I bought a kids book that had the images in it and I used my scanner and printer to re-size the image to a manageable size and let the projector do the rest. It took some time to move the projector head and lens every which way until I got the image sized and focused just the way I wanted it, even with using a scanned and printed image. Hopefully it will get easier as I get used to playing with the projector. 

I found very quickly that it's best to use a SIMPLE image. My personality tends to jump into things BIG, so silly me thought it would be great to do an entire detailed castle scene on my first cookie. I should have taken a picture of that one so you could get a great laugh! ;-) Nick enjoyed eating it quickly for me before anyone could see it!

Do you see the incredible sparkles on these cookies? That is Disco Dust recommended by Sweetopia. You can get it at CopperGifts, item #4688 or other colors are available too. I think it IS magical. It's expensive and comes in this tiny, tiny little jar, but oh what fun!
 and sparkles...
Okay, I need to get back to the video game cookies for this weekend. Have a wonderful day everyone and to all my friends on the East Coast, try to stay warm!