Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Floral Fun & Butterfly Bliss...

 This was the set I ended up doing for the winner of my two year anniversary giveaway.
The recipient received these pink and orange flowers and butterflies.
 I love it when I get free reign over choosing what theme of cookies I get to make.
 Inevitably I always lean toward florals!
 ...and butterflies!
 What can I say?
I'm just a flowery kinda gal, LOL!
I also added some squares in the same color palette in a variety of patterns.
 These flowers were inspired by the lovely Sugarbelle
Her work is much more lovely than mine.
But she remains one of my cookie idols.
 I enjoyed doing these butterflies.
I put very little detail on the small ones...but the larger ones, I had fun doing a lot of tiny scroll-work.
This watering can was not my best piece of work.
It was the first time I had ever done one, and you can tell...my hand was a little shaky in some spots!  But all in all, I think they turned out pretty good.
The winner enjoyed them and from what I hear, they all arrived in one piece!
What are you baking these days?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Packaging Cookies For Shipping...(A Tutorial)

~Shipping Cookies~
It's every baker/decorators worst nightmare.
 I have finally found "what works for me" and I thought, "Why not share it?"
I know there are other cookie decorators who use this method as well, but I've yet to find a "step-by-step" tutorial on this method, complete with pictures.  I'm the kind of learner who needs to be able to read the words and also look at pictures.  So I hope this helps SOMEONE else out there as well.
First off...most people ask, "Should I use UPS, USPS, or FedEx?"
Here is where I will just give you my own personal experience and opinion.
Upon many personal experiences with the USPS, I have had packages ripped, shredded, crushed, dropped, torn...and the contents destroyed.  Not to mention, they rarely arrive on time.  I have never used UPS for cookies, but I do know I've never had a bad experience with other packages that have arrived at my house that they've delivered.  
My PERSONAL FAVORITE is FedEx.  In my town, they offer the best hours of service.  They have friendly employees.  All of my cookies have arrived on time and in one piece.  I personally think their customer service can't be beat.  The cost of shipping "may" be a little more with FedEx, but is it worth it to have your cookie arrive on time and in one piece?  In my opinion, that would be a big resounding YES!
The staff at FedEx explained to me, that no matter which mailing service you use...all packages, at some point, are "dropped" from a conveyor belt.  Now I don't know "how high" or "how hard", but that is why packaging your cookies correctly is so critical.

Above is a little step by step collage I put together.  You can click on it to make it larger if you'd like to see it in detail.  The exact same pictures follow in the tutorial.
Ok, so here we go!
Are you ready to ship your cookies?
 First off, you're going to want your cookies to be fresh...so I recommend using a heat sealer to seal your cookies.  Once your cookies are all sealed, lay them out and we're ready to start prepping them for shipping!

 Next, you want to find a box suitable for shipping.  Nothing too huge.  I generally only ship 1-2 dozen cookies at a time, so my boxes are pretty small.  Once you have a box, you'll want to line it with bubble wrap...bottom, and each side.
 Ok.  Now that we've padded the box, we're ready to move on to inserting the cookies.  I use what I refer to as a "file" method.  I kind of just made up this term because when you insert the cookies, they look like they're little file folders.  You're going to need some scrap cardboard at this point.  Old boxes work just fine.  You'll need to cut them down in size so that they fit the width (or length, depending on which way you insert) and the height of the box.
 You can measure or just hold it up to your box to get an idea of the size you need to cut them into.
 Continue measuring and cutting until you have as many as you need.
I always insert them into the box like this, to see if they fit properly.
 Next what you're going to do, is lay out a long piece of bubble wrap (I like to buy the big rolls).  Lay your cardboard cutout onto the bubble wrap.  Place a cookie on the cardboard.  Take a small piece of Scotch tape and gently tape it to the cardboard.  Depending on the size of your cookies, cardboard, and box, you can generally fit several cookies on each piece.
 You will (very gently) flip your cookie board over and do the same thing again (place cookies/tape).  You will have cookies taped to the front and back of the cardboard.
 Now, we're going to (very gently) wrap our cookie board in bubble wrap.
Bring it around and place a small piece of Scotch tape to hold it in place.
 Now we're ready to insert them into the box.
Simply (and gently) place it (standing up) into the box, as if it were a file folder.
 Continue placing them into the box as you repeat each of the above steps.
(Wow, my hand looks chubby there...doesn't it? Haha!)
 As you are finishing up packing, you're going to want very little movement in the box.
 Remember, we are packing "snug" but not TIGHT.
If you pack too tight, it can wreck havoc on your icing details or crumble your cookies.
We don't want a lot of "wiggle room".
If you have "movement" place some more bubble wrap or some packing peanuts on the ends for more support/cushion.  When finished, it should feel secure and there shouldn't be much shifting.
There you have it.
You're cookies are snug an secure.
So far...(knock on wood)...I haven't had any problems with this method of shipping.
All of my cookies have arrived in one piece with no icing cracking.
Tape your box shut.
Take it to the delivery office of your choice.
Cross your fingers, say a prayer, and wait for your recipient's response!
I can tell you, it never gets any easier.
No matter how many times you ship cookies.
You will always be on pins and needles until you hear the recipient say, "They're here in one piece!"  LOL!
Then you can sit back, relax, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
Good job my friend!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Because Sometimes Life Just Calls For Sprinkles!

I don't know if many of my "cookie idols" (decorators) would agree with me on this one.
But sometimes, life just calls for no icing...and SPRINKLES...a whole LOT of SPRINKLES.
When I shared with several of my fellow cookie decorating friends that my husband and two sons don't like decorated iced cookies, I was met with...HORROR!
"What?!?  They don't like iced cookies?!?"
"How can they not like decorated cookies?!?"
"You're kidding, right?!?  You're kidding?!?"
No.  I'm not kidding, LOL!
My three guys don't like iced decorated cookies.
I've tried a variety of icings, glazes, and butter cream...and they just are NOT decorated cookie kinda guys.

 Give them a simple sugar cookie, butter cookie, or shortbread cookie with a dusting of sanding sugar or sprinkles...and they're happy as a lark!
Last night I was working on some cookies for the last giveaway I had, and I had some extra cookie dough.
 With this extra dough, I cut out a variety of shapes from cutters I'd never used, baked them, and put them in the freezer for future practice.
But I "still" had leftover dough...and very little freezer space left.
Time to get creative.
So, I just rolled the dough into walnut-sized balls, placed them in a dish of sprinkles, and pushed firmly to flatted them...and...
Little mini-sprinkle cookies!
My oldest son was THRILLED.
He said to me, "I had to stop at two since it's almost dinner time."
No, they're not fancy...but they're FUN!
Sprinkles make me HAPPY!
I love sprinkles!
Because sometimes...Life Just Calls For Sprinkles!

Friday, August 2, 2013

...And The Winner Of My Two Year Anniversary Giveaway Is...

I want to first thank everyone who has encouraged me, supported me, and ordered desserts from me over the past two years.
I so enjoy making cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, cookie pops, gift baskets, and favors for all of your special occasions.  It has been a real pleasure!
Your faith in me, means the world and keeps me going!
It is YOU who makes me want to be a better decorator/baker!

Ok, I'm sure you're saying, "Get on with it!  Who won?"
Well, I do things the old fashioned way...names go in a hat...no fancy computerized generator here, LOL!
Many of you contacted me because you were unable to comment on the blog for your entries...
Don't worry...I got all of you entered as well!
And now...
Without further ado... 
The winner is...
(drum roll)
~Jamie Dudley~

Congratulations Jamie!
Jamie, if you will please e-mail me or send me a message via Facebook with your mailing address, I will get to work on your two dozen decorated cookies!
Thank-you to everyone who entered!
And thank-you again for all of your love and support!
~Sweet Ivy Confections~