Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bike Ride out in Carmel Valley

No cookies today, sorry. I finished decorating all the Easter cookies for family and friends by working on them til 2am for 3 days and I told my hubby that my reward was that I got to go for an all day bike ride on Saturday. When my alarm went off at 4:30am, I realized what a stupid, stupid person I am ;-) Seriously how many people see their reward as getting up at the crack of dawn to go push your body farther than it wants to go for a very long day? Yes, I do. That is my reward.

It turned out to be a gorgeous day. The temps ranged from 53-85 degrees with a wonderful cool breeze in the hills. It was a long drive to the start of the group ride out in Salinas. Everyone was in good spirits. I think there were about 12 of us on the ride. The beginning of this ride is flat and we had a tailwind and we were just flying. I got chatting with the strongest guy in the group, Ken Emerson, and forgot about my goal of staying toward the back of the group to conserve energy for the long day. At mile 35ish we arrived at Soledad Mission and ate a banana and used the restroom and then headed back out again. About this time we started up a long, gradual climb. It seemed to go on forever. One of my other cycling friends, Lane Parker, said the big climb was at mile 50. I thought he must be wrong. This had to be the climb. I climbed the entire hill alone. There were 3 guys far, far ahead of me (Ken, Dan & Art) that had taken off and the rest of the group was behind. I couldn't see a single person for many miles. I came upon a turn and wasn't sure which way to go. I trusted my instinct and made the turn. Now keep in mind that I have NO instincts when it comes to directions, but I went with it. I then slowed way down hoping that I would find some other cyclists and know that I had gone the right way. Yes, I beat myself up for assuming I would stay with the group and not taking a route sheet at the start. I took my time on the climb and enjoyed the breeze. I came upon a huge possum that was chasing his very long tail. Ick, ick, ick. Really wishing another person was with me at this point.

Eventually John Dektar came along and we chatted a little bit on the climb. Remember that I thought Lane must be wrong about where the hill was in mileage (Lane is NEVER wrong about routes by the way), so I kept telling myself that around the corner, we would summit the hill and be done with climbing. John politely told me how very wrong I was. All this was just pre-climbing and the big hill was indeed at mile 50. Ugh. I decided to stop and eat a power bar since my stomach had already been growling for miles. While I rested and ate my bar, the rest of the peloton went by and I was glad to see my group. The rest of the climb wasn't too bad, but I was definitely struggling. When I did this same route last year, it was about as easy as it could be. I cycled over 9k miles last year and had the strength and endurance from all that training. This year has been a whole different story. I've allowed too many other obsessions hobbies get in the way and it really showed and I felt every pain of the ride.

A couple of us decided to take out two of the extra loops with more climbing and shorten the ride. We enjoyed a nice lunch at mile 72 with the group and then headed out for the last climb. This one was hard. I felt like a slug. I was climbing SO slow. It was frustrating knowing how much easier it was last year. I chatted with Ken and Dan on the hill and Ken tried to get me to chat more. I told him I was busy trying to breathe and he and Dan dashed up to the top easy-peasy. The descent was nice and that's always such a nice reward after a long, difficult climb. At the finish, I changed my clothes and relaxed on the long drive back. I had given out cookies at the start of the ride and told everyone they had to put them in the car and have it as a reward on the way home after the ride. It was a fun day and a real eye-opener of the strength I've lost and need to work to rebuild. I finished the ride with 87 miles, but the rest of the group had closer to 100 miles and more climbing. I'll get there eventually. Great friends to ride with and I couldn't be more blessed. 

Lane Parker took these two photos of me during the ride just in case you didn't know why they call me Pinkie ;-)
 I love the look of the wheels spinning in this one below
Happy Easter everyone!!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Cookies and a Free Printable for Easter Cookie Bags

It's almost Easter! I went today and bought candy to make an Easter basket for my son. After this weekend, he will receive one more Easter basket from his parents and then be off and away to college and finding his way in this world. It's weird how everything is down to the last 13 months with my "baby" boy! Our daughters are already grown and living their own full lives and all to soon, Nick will be too. Okay, enough of that! Can you tell I miss him already!

So we returned from vacation in Palm Beach, Florida Sunday night and by Tuesday I was already baking cookies. I was excited to try out my two new Easter cookie cutters from www.coppergifts.com! In all I used 18 different Easter cookie cutters for many designs. At the bottom of this post, make sure to check out the Easter printable tags that I made for my cookie bags. For my baking friends, you can download the printable for your own cookie bags too.

So here's the cookies that I came up with for our Easter family festivities this Sunday. I did a little experimenting too. Lately I've been really liking the definition that outlining brings, so I made almost all the cookies in an outlined version and also a non-outlined version so I could see which I preferred and also get input from my kids as to their preference. My daughter likes every cookie outlined and loves the detail. My son doesn't care and just wants to eat cookies ;-)
My favorite are the sheep. They were my favorite last year too. They are just so darn cute. There are some with pink faces and some with black faces. I made one special little lamb with dots for his coat instead of the swirly details. As a glaze icing gal, that took quite a bit of time since glaze doesn't really stand up. I had to come back to the cute lamb 4 times for different dots, but he was worth it. So tell me do you prefer the ones that are outlined or the ones without the outline? Mellissa and I have chosen the outline for our preference. Again Nick just wants to eat the sheep and doesn't care if there is detail ;-)
My newest cookie cutter from Copper Gifts is the huge bunny in egg. The cookie measures 7.5 x 4.25! Woo-hoo that's my kind of cookie! They were really fun to make too. So do you prefer the one on the left with the outlining or the one on the right without outlining?
Next up is some large bunny head cookies. I decided to outline all these because they were just to darn cute that way... Thanks to SugarBelle and to The Painted Cookie for guiding me on how to finally get the pink cheeks right using luster dust.
and some smaller bunny heads...
and then I made only TWO of these very special chocolate bunnies. I gave one to a friend and I hid one away for Nick to enjoy on Easter. This cookie is about 10 inches tall! They aren't really chocolate, but I used chocolate brown colored icing, so they look pretty authentic.
I also made some bunny profile cookies that were really cute and I thought they would be my favorite, but when I added the whiskers, I didn't like them quite as much. I'll have to figure out another way for next year. In the meantime, do you like the one on the right with the outlining or prefer the one on the left without the outline? I've decided I prefer the one with the detailed outlining as it just makes it pop a bit more, but I also like the softness of the one without the outline...
Now our bunnies need some carrots, so I made a couple varieties. I like the one with the outline, but I think Nick preferred the one without the outline... as if he really cares...!
and smaller carrots. On this one I preferred it without the outline.
Moving on to Chicks and Ducks. On both of these, I preferred without the outline better, but Mellissa liked the ones with the outline better.
and the rubber duckies too
so this is when I've started to figure out a pattern of my preference... have you figured it out yet?
I could be wrong, but I think I've realized that my personal preference on outlining is that if it is a simplistic set of colors like two colors or a simple pattern that doesn't have much detail anyway, I seem to prefer without the outline. When it is a more intricate design with more colors, I love that the outline makes it pop and show the detail much better. I think that's what I've learned from doing these Easter cookies in two ways. What do you think? While you ponder that, here are some Cross cookies. I haven't mastered Loren's beautiful roses found here: The Baking Sheet's Rose Making Tutorial. Did I say I haven't mastered them? Honestly I haven't even tried! I'm a wimp and she does them so beautifully. I'll just watch in awe for now! So in other words, yes I bought these little flowers and stuck them on the crosses :-)
so yes, I bought these cute duckies too...
Another new cookie cutter that I ordered from www.coppergifts.com is the new marshmallow bunnies cookie cutter. I bought the small one and decided it would look more authentic to smoosh two of them together like the real marshmallow messy ones. I decided I like the non-outlined ones best as they look more authentic. Everyone in my family, except for my mom, don't like the actual marshmallow bunny candies, but these cookie versions are pretty yummy. Hubby especially likes the cookies that have lots of sanding sugar on them!
and of course there has to be spring Tulips for Easter. I used my brand new Disco Dust in Amethyst Purple from winning a contest hosted by SugarBelle and KarensCookies.net to decorate these.
and lastly I attempted to make the absolutely gorgeous Easter eggs that LilaLoa made. Have you seen them? Click on her name, you just have to see them. They are beautiful. Anyway, my crazy, type-A, difficult brain just couldn't make my hands do wild lines, so I had to compromise and do a very basic pattern, but they were still fun and colorful and I'm really happy with them.
So I made lots of Easter cookies and did lots of experimenting too.
and here are the cookie tags I promised. Click below the pictures for the link to where you can print them out for your own use if you'd like.
 I haven't figured out how to make the picture itself a link to the download. I know how to do it in HTML, but not on the user-friendly blog :( Feel free to leave me a comment telling me how in blogger, if you know! Anyway, to download these cookie tags for your own use, go here: Easter Printable Cookie Tags 2
and to download this one for your use go here: Easter Printable Cookie Tags 1. You probably know how I feel about re-creating the wheel. I think it's silly if someone has already put in the time and effort to create something and then not share it for others, so I hope you're able to enjoy these cookie tags!

Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Back From Vacation

My husband won a very prestigious sales award last week and the company flew us off to Palm Beach, Florida for a special trip. It was really nice to get away from our normal busy schedule and relax and enjoy the sun. 

This first picture was a really cool event. They gave us an opportunity to create shoes for needy children through Tom's Shoes. With every pair of shoes purchased at www.toms.com, Tom's donates a pair of shoes for a needy child. How cool is that?! It was exciting to be a part of a philanthropic event. 
 This is a photo of the pool that we spent a good part of 3 days relaxing in the sun.
 Every night there was a company dinner event. I was thankful that I packed 4 evening dresses that all had some black in them so I only had to pack one pair of heels :-)
 Almost every ceiling in The Breakers Hotel had these gorgeous ceilings!
 Cristin and Dave relaxed and having fun together.
 Dave and I ventured out past the hotel on the last day to walk around Palm Beach. This was still on hotel grounds and too beautiful to not photograph.
 The walkway from The Breakers out to the city. We found a few lizards along the way.
 and this pretty bird too.
 Okay about now, I was really missing my pretty pink bike and look at the 3rd cyclist. It's a gal in pink with pink handlebars. There were lots of cyclists. They don't have the gorgeous hills that we have and they have a lot more humidity, but I was really wishing we could go for a bike ride!
 The gorgeous flowers and chandelier at the entrance of the lobby. There were flowers on every table and desk too. I can't imagine how much The Breakers pays just in flowers! They were beautiful!
 Okay, now I started missing baking. One of the shops had these pretty Easter cookies delivered on the last day of our trip. 
 I bought this sweatshirt in Dallas, Texas during a long lay-over between flights. I wanted to be like my cookier friend, SugarBelle who makes the most gorgeous cookies you can imagine and figured the Texas sweatshirt would do the trick ;-) I even considered staying longer in Texas and asking SugarBelle for a personalized cookie decorating lesson!
 Our boxer dog, Eddie, was very glad that we returned home and decided to sleep upside down ;-)
Now that we're back home, I've been baking and decorating Easter cookies. They should be done tomorrow and I'll post pictures then. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cookies, Bike Ride & Victoria's Secret PINK Bag

Today was an awesome day! A bunch of friends and I did a 94-mile bike ride today. When we started at 7am, it was only 36 degrees and painfully cold, but it warmed up and it was gorgeous outside and fun conversations with my friends. It was a great day and we finished off the ride strong and feeling great.

I also have to show you this perfect luggage bag that I bought for our upcoming trip:
It has rolling wheels and tons of pockets and I'm so excited to use it for our trip and Mellissa's wedding and other events!

The cookie project I'm working on this week is teacups that are shaped with a whipped topping for a friend of mine and pirate cookies for my soon to be son-in-law that is celebrating his birthday next week. He bought me the pirate ship cookie cutter for Christmas and I added to the collection so it will be fun to make pirate cookies that I haven't made before!

Tomorrow hopefully I'll have the cookies further along and show pictures then. I hope you're all having an awesome weekend!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Karate Cookies for My Son's Black Belt Test

My son recently earned his Black Belt in Kenpo Karate! For the test, I baked and decorated 131 karate cookies monopolizing every minute of 7 days. I also made cookie tags with inspirational messages on each cookie bag. You can download and use the karate cookie tags that I made by going here: Handmade Karate Cookie Tags with Inspirational Quotes 

I started by baking 131 cookies in various karate shapes:
Next I outlined all the cookies:
Next I filled in the bottom coat of icing in various colors:
I also used my KopyKake projector to hand draw these karate boys with icing:
Then I started to add the detail to finish off decorating the karate cookies:
I printed out an image of this karate-ka (student) and then put waxed paper over the printed image and used Royal Icing to draw the design. After it fully dried, I transferred the image to these cookies below:
I looked online to research various Kanji characters and drew each of these onto cookies by hand:
and Yin-Yang symbols
and Karate Gi (uniform):
and Blue Ribbons:
and Trophies:
and Karate Boys:
More Karate Boys:
and the various cookie designs for the Karate test:
Here the cookies are ready to go...
and the cake for after the test...
Please join me in congratulating Nick in earning his Black Belt in Kenpo Karate!