Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Stained Glass" Cookies


I received quite a few requests to please explain the technique I used to achieve a stained glass effect on a cookie, so to be nice I decided that I would do that for you all.

It is almost Christmas after all.

Remember though, it is NOT my intention to ever become a tutorial writer.  I don't mind sharing here and there, but there are already awesome cookie artists out there that cover pretty much anything you could ever want.

I learned cookie artistry by researching techniques and mastering them.   I don't mean to sound crass, but seriously, do your own research.  Play around with different techniques and never feel limited to only cookie icing be it glaze or Royal.

Be adventurous and use BOTH.


Anyway, last Easter I made these cookies and I was thrilled with the way they came out.  I had seen the technique used by Corriecakes  and I knew I had to figure out how it was done.

So I did.

I was hoping that I would get to make them this holiday season and my prayers were answered.


This technique is super easy and works up quickly.  First off, roll, cut, and bake your shapes.

Go wild and use whatever shape your heart desires.

Make some marshmallow fondant.  Flavor it with something crazy like bubble gum.  You can use commercial fondant, but just know that crap is nasty.  Just stop being lazy and learn how to make your own.

Roll and cut the fondant with the same cutters you used for your cookies. Make a few extras just in case.  Let the shapes sit for about 15 minutes to become firm.

Lightly paint the cookie surface with corn syrup and then adhere the fondant to the top of the cookie.

Use a detail consistency (Thick Shampoo) Royal Icing to outline your designs making sure that you connect all the areas so that your stain will not run into other areas.

Make your "stain" in little wells of an artists palette or a styrofoam egg carton like me, using 1 Tablespoon Corn Syrup, 1 teaspoon water (or Cake Batter Vodka), and desired coloring.

Mix it, mix it good.

It should be thick enough to stay on a paint brush, but will immediately run when touched on a surface. Using your paint brush, lightly fill sections with desired colors.

These cookies will dry with a shiny, hard, candied effect.













Bada Bing



Badda Boom.  


You know you live in the South when you see names like Miss Martha, Earlene, and Skip....


This is Home Girl.

Now go make your own cookies!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Meet and Greet Monday: She Bakes


The weeks leading up to the Christmas Holidays are always the busiest of times in the baking and sugar art world.

Go figure.

That is why I did not write Meet and Greet last Monday as EVERY one of my Cookier Friends is so busy and I knew that adding "one more thing" to an already full plate would be enough to send someone over the edge.

I won't be the responsible party that makes a baker lose their shit.

NOT that I know what it's like to lose my shit...

Tennessee Country Christmas
I thought it might be nice to just feature myself today as a Cookier "Interview-ee".  I think I am still narcissistic enough to pull it off and that way I did not have to bother anyone that is deep in the throws of decorative holiday cookies.

Hope you enjoy this post as I rarely every let people get to know me on a deeper level...even if it is just about cookies.

Vintage Themed Holiday Cookies
She Bakes: Let's give a rousing sugar welcome to "Home Girl" from She Bakes!!!  (This would be me.)

Home Girl: Thank you, so much for having me this morning!!  I'm glad I could pull myself away from the design bench to do this interview with you!!  I still have so much to do, so let's get down to business and answer these burning questions!!  By the way, do you have my requested Venti Starbucks' Salted Caramel Mocha Latte with a double shot??  Oh, good.  Thank you!
~
She Bakes: How did you fall in love with baking?

Home Girl: I fell in love with baking and decorating at a very young age.  My paternal grandmother, "Mutti" was from the Black Forest region of Germany and she baked these amazing cookies called Almond Spritz.  She would also take me and my little sister into a local place named Plaza Bakery (in Virginia Beach, Virginia) where they have the most wonderful Cakes, Cookies,  and Petit Fours.  My personal favorite is an Almond pound cake with Lemon or Pineapple Curd nestled in between the layers of dense, moist cake and covered in fluffy white, almond decorator icing.
~
She Bakes: Just for my own survey, did you ever have an Easy Bake Oven as a child?

Home Girl:  I did!!  I received my Easy Bake Oven for Christmas in 1977 at the age of six.  It changed my life forever.  Notice that my parents were also nice enough to get me a stand-up mixer, too!!

(See that Teddy Bear in the photo?  I wish I still had him.  He was an 18 inch Steiff and would be worth a lot of money today.)

Home Girl circa 1977

She Bakes: Name your top five Cookie Artists that you swoon over in no particular order.

Home Girl:  I can only name five?  Seriously?  Well, the first cookie blog I ever laid eyes on was Cristin's Cookies. I just adore her work and she is seriously one of the nicest people that walk the planet.  Of course, there's The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle and Lilaloa both of whom I learn so much from.  I might be slightly obsessed with Arty McGoo and her amazing work.  A new Top Five Cookie Artist for me is Mike from Semi Sweet Designs.  LOVE, LOVE, FREAKIN' LOVE his work.

I could seriously go on and on and on...there are just so many incredible sugar artists out there!!
~
She Bakes: What is your "goto" sugar cookie recipe?

Home Girl: I fell in love with this cookie recipe about 4 months ago and never looked back.  It's light and dreamy, works like a champ, and never needs to be chilled.  Why mess with what I consider to be perfection in a cookie?  I use to rely on a cookie made with granulated sugar, but since switching to one  that uses powdered sugar, I have found that I much prefer the flavor balance.
~
She Bakes: From what I can gather, you're also a restaurant trained chef...what is your favorite cuisine to both cook and eat.

Home Girl: That's a difficult question to answer!!  I am well versed in all aspects of cooking, regional and worldly cuisine, and baking, but I would have to say my most favorite is All Things Italian.  Northern Italian, more specifically.  I love, love, LOVE a good cream sauce with properly made delicate veal, slices of Prosciutto, and sweet, fresh garden peas with the proper hint of garlic and cracked peppercorn.  I serve this with Cesar Salad, made from scratch croutons baked in butter, sprinkled with fresh grated Parmesan Cheese, and a house-made dressing.  There might be a Tiramisu for dessert if you've been very good.
~
She Bakes: What is your most favorite thing about cookie art?

Home Girl: I love how creating a set of cookies relaxes me.  It's my therapy.  I turn on some music, go into my design room and get completely lost in piping icing onto a small surface.  It truly completes me and makes me blissfully happy.  I also love the look on someone's face when they see their cookies.  That's pretty awesome.
~
She Bakes: If you could send cookies to anyone famous, who would it be and why?

Home Girl:  Khloe Kardashian.  Without hesitation.  She deserves to smile considering how this past year has been so difficult for her.  Out of all my Kardashian sisters, she is the one I identify with the most and she's a shining example of how to gracefully deal with other people's bullshit and not jump on that train to Crazytown.  I give her "mad props" for that.  She's keeps it classy, yet gangsta.  (If anyone has that Koko connection, PLEASE hook a sista up so I can make cookies just for her!  It's on my bucket list!!!)

Let It Snow, Please!  
She Bakes:  Word on the street is that you're physically disabled.  Care to discuss this part of your life with us?

Home Girl: This past year I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Osteo-arthritis in all my major joints such as my hips, knees, feet, ankles, neck, back...pretty much everything BUT my hands, thank God.  I am very limited as to what I can and cannot do.  This coming New Year will be hard for me as I venture into medically necessary treatment that I do not want to do.  It's not gonna be fun, but I'm a fighter and I'll just kick this shit's ass, too.  It makes me sad that I can not work in a commercial bakery anymore, but I do what I can with my home oven.
~
She Bakes:  Outside of baking and decorating, what are your other passions in life?

Home Girl:  There are so many!!!  First and foremost is my relationship with My Divine, My God, and becoming more connected to my spiritual world. Right behind Him are my seven children ranging in age from 26 to 11.  I love photography, sewing, quilting, all things foodie, and living in Olde Towne, Portsmouth, Virginia.  That's how I became "Home Girl".  Passion for me, is in the creation of a "home".
~
She Bakes: That's all the questions I have for you today, Home Girl!  Thank you so much for taking time out of your extremely crazy busy week to talk with us!

Home Girl:  Not a problem, at all.  Thank you.  You'll be leaving now, right?

Ho Ho Ho

This is Home Girl...I mean, She Bakes....I get so confused.

Now, leave me alone so I can get all these cookies finished!!!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

This and That Thursday

Posting on a Thursday has always been my favorite day to write.  It was started sometime ago by my Mama over at Mental Pause Mama.  (She needs to get back to writing, by the way.)  I like it because it gives me a chance to data dump my brain and for someone like me, it's often necessary so the creative pathways don't get clogged up.

Holla' if ya feel me.


I am going to enjoy the holiday season this year.  I will take the good with the bad and just relish in it all.  I will have no expectations of others except for love.  Pure and simple.  Life is just too short to get caught up in the bull shit.  Seriously.

~

When you live with only guys, never expect that you can leave 6 decorator tips in a paper towel on the counter for longer than 2 minutes because somehow one of them will throw that shit in the trash and then dump kitty litter on top of it.

~

I learned about Saint Nicholas Day from my friend at Jill FCS (Funky Cookie Studio) as she is hosting a Santa Share on her Thursday Throwdown.  I love learning about different holiday traditions and this one is so wonderful.  On December 5th, you put out your stockings or shoes in celebration of Saint Nicholas, who spent his life giving to others.  On December 6th morning, you will hopefully find a small gift and some sugary treats.

It makes me want to get all the decorations out and decorate the house today.



I had some left over Chocolate Cookie Dough that I had flavored with pure Peppermint Extract instead of Vanilla and then I rolled some Andes Peppermint Crunch bits into it and cut those bad girls out....

OMG.  So good and festive!!

You can get the recipe here.  I bow down to Lilaloa every time I make this recipe!  I just love how versatile it is and how well behaved it acts.

Playing with flavors is one of my favorite things to do.



I'm working on Victorian Inspired Cookies for a Dessert Auction at The Hill House Museum located in Olde Towne, Portsmouth, Virginia.  I have fallen in love with these Santa's!!

~
This is Home Girl and I feel so much better now.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Happy The Elf

I'll admit it.  I have been a fan of the Elf Antics for a while now.  I think it's a  fun tradition for the whole family to have the little sprite running around creating havoc and mayhem.

At least that is what my Happy the Elf does.

He's not one of the new fancy one's from that EOTS company.  Happy is a vintage elf (circa 1940 ish) and we have been good friends for quite some time.

Here he is messaging his friends on Elf Book.


This year I knew I wanted to make Elf Cookies, but I just hated the Elf Cookie Cutters that I saw. Most of them had a "boxy" feel to them.  I am pretty particular about my cutters and when Cristin from Cristin's Cookies asked for art submissions, I jumped up and did my happy elf dance!


I drew up exactly what I was looking for in an Elf Cutter and it went up against several other great designs which were voted on in a blind trial.

Guess what happened?  My design was picked as the favorite!!

Guess what else happened?


SHE SENT ME ONE OF MY VERY OWN FOR FREE!!!!!  

I squealed with joy when I got the box in the mail!  Cristin's cutters are amazing.  They are sturdy, without flimsy sides, and make nice, clean cuts when making cookies.  They are easy to clean and come beautifully packaged in pink paper and a cutter care card.  The box is so nice that after I use my special cutter, I always put it back into it's special home.


I just love the way the Elf Cookies came out!!

I think Happy the Elf loved them, too.

He munched on one of the cookies because he said that he was super hungry after being in the attic all year long.


This is Home Girl and I hope that if you partake in the whole Elf antics experience that you're having a great time, too!!

Check out all these great ideas for your own Elf Fun!!  If you don't have an Elf and don't want to pay a lot, go to a thrift store.  There are usually tons of the vintage ones for cheap!!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Meet and Greet: Cristin's Cookies


Good Monday morning to everyone!  I'd like to introduce you to my sweet, talented, adorable friend from Cristin's Cookies.  Cristin is my own first Cookie Crush.  I completely fell head over heels with her cookies and their gorgeous glazed icing.  I have even had the chance to co-produce a cookie cutter with her, but I'll tell you more about that story later this week.  

I was terribly honored when she agreed to answer my burning questions and I know that you will love her as much as I do!!  


1. How did you fall in love with baking and how old were you?

My daughter and I started baking and decorating cookies for Christmas only. I had bought a 1995 Better Homes and Garden magazine featuring Christmas Cookies and my mother had given me a couple cookie cutters. The cookies were basically just shapes with sprinkles on them. Then in November of 2009, I saw a penguin cookie cutter advertised in a magazine. I hunted it down and found it at CopperGifts.com. That was the first cookie cutter I ever bought and I loved it. My cookie journey really began with that first cookie cutter. Then I found Susan of The Painted Cookie and picked her brain about cookies. I started my Cristin's Cookies blog on January 23, 2011 and joined Facebook shortly after on March 10, 2011. Finding so many friends on Facebook that enjoy decorating cookies helped to grow my current obsession.

2. Just for my own survey, did you ever have an Easy Bake Oven as a child?

Yes, I had an easy bake oven. Being able to make baked goods with a light bulb is a very good thing.


3. Name your top five cookie artsist that you swoon over in no particular order.

Oh gosh that's a hard one. There are so many that I not only swoon over, but completely admire and want to be like.
 
*Of course the amazing Callye of Sugarbelle's. I was lucky enough to meet her and she's just as nice in person as she is on her blog. I was nervous as can be - as in SHAKING, but she is warm and kind and makes you feel very welcome, even though she is the top celebrity in the cookie world! Her cookies are just beautiful and she provides easy to follow tutorials on every cookie she makes. The time that she dedicates to helping the cookie community is amazing. 

*And one of my all time favorites is Jill of Jill FCS. Her cookies make my jaw drop every time. My favorite style is with an outlined design because I think it makes the design pop and almost all of Jill's designs are outlined and they are always so creative and unique. And she rally's us all together in the fight against Leukemia for the Go Bo foundation and she pulls it all off with a smile.

*And Anita of Sweet Hope Cookies. Her cookies are beautiful and YUMMY (yes, I've had them) and she's funny as heck and down to earth and real. She comes up with tons of recipes and shares them with the cookie world. She fights against ALS and gives us the opportunity to be a part of the cause and she inspires us all to do nice things for other people. Random Acts of Kindness. She is the gal.

*Georganne of LilaLoa. Have you tried her chocolate cookie recipe? I don't even like chocolate, but I LOVE those cookies. She makes gorgeous cookies, shares her tutorials and for a long time she was doing it from the other side of the world. When I said that I'm incompetent at making eyes, a large container of different colored royal icing eyes showed up at my house Air Mail from Korea! She's a sweetie and an incredible designer of cookie cutters.

* Pam of CookieCrazie is such a complete sweetie and she responds to blog comments too. I was a glaze gal from the very very start, but Pam made being a glaze gal COOL. I felt like a complete outsider in the beginning especially when I saw the amazing designs and puffiness of the gorgeous cookies that others were creating. You know the kid that's different from the others and feeling out of place? That was me. Then I found Pam. All her cookies are made with glaze icing. She showed me that whether cookies are decorated with royal icing or glaze icing or fondant, or whatever, we're all part of a loving cookie community and see the talent in each other's work. 

I also love the gorgeous creations from Shannon of Artfully Delicious and Laurie of Cookie Bliss and Kim of The Cookie Puzzle and Melissa of Simply Sweets by Honeybee and Laura of Laura's Cookies and April of April's Sweet Boutique and so many that I could go on forever.

4. What is your favorite and least favorite thing about working in Glaze Icing as opposed to Royal Icing. 

Taste, taste, taste. Glaze icing is just plain yummy. I tried to make the switch to Royal Icing a couple years ago so that I could have those beautiful puffy creations that I drool over, but my kids rebelled. Glaze icing does not stay where you want it to stay. It doesn't ever get puffy. It takes longer to dry. Can't use a dehydrator. It gets craters if you're not careful. Lots of difficulties with working with glaze icing. But they're yummy and once you figure out what works for you with designing them, they can be beautiful. 

5. What was your favorite dish from your Thanksgiving feast.

I laughed when I read that question. I'm a vegetarian. I ate a muffin and mashed potatoes for dinner on Thanksgiving. We go to my in-laws for dinner and there is normally also salad and corn, but not this year. We brought the dessert. It was wonderful to be with family and friends though.


6. You're an avid cyclist, what is your dream ride?

I've actually done my dream ride. Several of them. My first century was one of my favorites when I rode in Napa alongside grapevines and flowers and beautiful hills and then down to the coast near the beach. My other favorite ride is a triple century that is down South in Malibu. You start at 4am in the pitch dark and can hear the ocean waves near you, but can only see what your bike light ahead shows and then the sun comes up and you have a glorious day of cycling and rest stops with energy bars to keep you going and then it gets dark again and the ending of the ride has these killer hills and descents and you have to finish before 4am to get credit for completing the ride. In the last 2 years of running Cristin's Cookies, I haven't had the time or strength to participate in those extra long endurance rides, but they are my favorite and I hope to get back to that strength.

7. If you could send cookies to any celebrity, who would it be and why? 

Hmmm I've never thought of that one. In all honesty, I'm much more star struck with our cookie gals than television or movie stars. I guess I have to pass on that one. I spend so much time on my cookies, I'd rather send them to someone that I know will appreciate them or to lift someone's day. It would be really fun to bring them to a children's hospital or a retirement home instead.

8. You make the most awesome cookie cutters, how did this come to fruition and where are you hoping to take this aspect of your artistry?

I'm a cookie cutter addict. I've spent more money on cookie cutters than I care to divulge. Thankfully I don't buy shoes or get my hair done or shop. When I started making my own cookie cutters, it was really just to make my own designs. When I bought a cookie cutter, I often saw things I would want to change about it. It was an extremely painful process to learn to make my own cutters (and still is sometimes). My first cookie cutter was Polly the ice skating penguin and she is still my very favorite. I squeal whenever I make those cookies. It's such a thrill when people purchase my cookie cutters and the tutorial cards. And seeing them pop up on Facebook, makes me smile huge. As far as the future, it is still very new to me. I've only had my Etsy shop open since Dec 27th of last year, so coming up on my one year shop anniversary soon. At this point, I think my goal is just to keep it up. In all honesty, it's not easy to design the cutters, make the cookies, photos, blog, ship and so on. I love it, but it's also a juggling act. I love that I'm often able to include a handmade cookie into some cookie cutter orders. I love seeing the designs come out as I see them in my head. I love the excitement of others when I come out with a new cookie cutter.



9. Are you going to CookieCon? 

Yes, I've bought my ticket. I'm still super nervous to meet all these amazing cookiers that I've idolized, but I'm excited to go.

10. Outside of cookies, name 5 passions in your life.

Mellissa, Nick, Sarah, Abigail and Aidan. And my daughter just drove up, so I'm going to go soak up 3 of those favorite passions ;-)


See, isn't she just the most amazing person?  She is a driving force in the cookie community and I'm glad she represents the "Glaze Girl's" with such class and elegance! 

Make sure you "like" Cristin's Facebook Page HERE.  Want to order some of her incredible, well-crafted, cookie cutters that come with free awesome customer service?  Check out her Etsy Shop HERE.  

~
This is Home Girl and I wish you a fabulous week and a Happy Cyber Monday Shopping Day.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's Almost Turkey Day!!


Thanksgiving Feast

May your stuffing be tasty,
May your turkey be plump,
May your potatoes and gravy 
have nary a lump,
May your yams be delicious 
and your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
stay off your thighs!  

Author Unknown



Thanksgiving has always been one of my most favorite holidays of the year.  I try to be very grateful all year long for the blessings that God has provided for me, but it is always nice to spend some time thinking about the highlights of the previous year.

Here is my Top Ten list of things I am thankful for this year.

1. I am thankful that I have minimal joint damage in my hands.  Although my feet, ankle, knee, and hip joints are all jacked which make working in a traditional bakery impossible, I am blessed that I can sit and decorate cookies.

2.  I am extremely thankful for my medical team that helps me wade through this maze of figuring out what is causing my joint degeneration and other health issues.

3.  I am thankful for Wilton Squeeze bottles.  I never thought I would say that.  Ever.  I must admit though that basing a lot of cookies is SO much easier with them.

4.  I am thankful for Smithfield Ham from Smithfield, Virginia.  It's where I will be traveling to tomorrow to imbibe on as much pig as I can stand.

5.  I am thankful for fuzzy, warm socks and Ugg boots.


6.  I am very thankful for my all my kids, both by birth and the ones my heart adopted.

7.  I am thankful for all my wonderful friends.  God has blessed me with the most amazing people in my life and I appreciate each one of you!

8.  I am thankful to God for never allowing me to have a hardened heart.

9.  I am thankful for my Mentor Mothers who help guide me through life, impart their wisdom on me, and never let me have a full fledged temper tantrum.

10.  I am thankful for the Cookie Community to which I belong.  I can not imagine a nicer group of people on this Earth.



I am also thankful for repaired, long lost bridges to the ones you love the most.  


This is Home Girl and I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving Holiday and a wonderful Hanukkah.  


Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Meet and Greet: The Sugared Apron

This is where Home Girl gets to interrogate all these amazing cookie artists that have wrapped their arms around her and into the fold of Cookie Artistry.

Cookiers are the nicest people in the world.  I know this because none of them make me feel homicidal the way Cake Decorators do.

Seriously, those girls are cutthroat and I don't play that shiz....

Anywho, I want to introduce to you, my first victim:  The Sugared Apron.

She agreed (did not have a choice) to answer all my questions.  Let me tell you, I just adore this girl.



1- How did you fall in love with baking? When I was very young, I lived with my Grandma for awhile & she always took the time to show us how to crochet, sew, cook, and bake. I'm no good at the 1st two, but the way my Grandma showed me how to cook & baked always kept my interest.
How old were you? I was about 6-7 when I started to make cupcakes on my own, with my Grandma's guidance of course.
2- Just for my own survey, did you ever have an Easy Bake Oven as a child? Ha ha! No I didn't own one as a kid. I guess I didn't need one since I was using a real oven when I was young. Where were my parents?!
3- Name your top five Cookie Artists that you swoon over in no particular order and do not feel obligated to name me (I'm joking, you can't name me. I'm the host. It can't always be about me. Wait, can it?): Ugh, top 5?! No fair! Okay, well there's the usual suspects like Sugarbelle's, Lilaloa, Jill FCS, Cristin's Cookies, Ali's Sweet Tooth & She Bakes! Hee hee! I snuck you in but totally serious! I think I can name 20 more. So many inspire me!
4- I see your handy with some buttercream and your Dimensional cookie cake work is amazeballs....is this a direction you want to continue to grow in? I thought it was but nooooo! At this time, with my regular work schedule, I barely have enough time to do a cookie order for family & friends. As for cakes, they will always scare me. I tried my hand at fondant but I like working with buttercream better. And I only make cakes for family because they're very forgiving & they like cake, especially with cookies on them! I always tell people when they want a fondant cake, "I dabble in fondant, but I dive into buttercream"!
5- Thanksgiving is this week, what kinds of dishes will be on your table? Turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, scalloped potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, rolls and of course pumpkin and pecan pies for dessert. We're a very traditional family.
6- What is your most favorite thing about cookie art? I have never thought of myself as a artist but when I create a cookie, whether I pipe, draw or paint on it...the look on the person's face when they recieve it is priceless and I think...hmmm I actually created something that somebody likes! Besides the creative aspect of "cookie art", I am constantly learning from my cookie peers and the above "cookie artists" that were mentioned before. You can only strive to do better & be happy with what you create! And the friendships I've made during this whole "cookie art" process is priceless!



7- Tell us why you want to send cookies to James Earl Jones....Hmmm??? LOL! Oh you had to bring him up didn't ya?! Growing up, my brother, sister & I have always loved Star Wars...especially Darth Vadar!! I love James Earl Jones & his infamous voice. Seeing him in that darn Sprint Facebook commerical made me think, hey, if I sent him a batch of "Star Wars" cookies he would want to be my FB friend & would announce to the world, "Cheryl & I ARE NOW FRIENDS"! Then we would become real friends & I would introduce him to even more cookie friends & they become friends with them, he would do more announcing.....& at the end we would all end up at his house watching the first 3 Star Wars movies reciting all the lines from the movie & eat cookies! Hey you asked! And yes, I need help!
8- Approximately how many cookie cutters do you have in your stash? Too many but I think I stopped counting at about 500+ cookie cutters! I have a lot of cookie cutter enablers in my life, it's hard to stop buying cookie cutters. Again, I need help!
9=Are you going to Cookie Con this year? YES!! I had planned to go last year but life happened, so I held on to some of my Cookie Con money & stashed more away so I could go in March 2014! I am beyond excited!!
10- Outside of cookies name 5 passions in your life. 1. My Son Shawn is my everything! 2. My husband & the rest of my family! 3. My home, I'm constantly trying to spruce up the old joint! 4. My collection of cake stands! I think I have close to 50 at this time! 5. My collection of tea pots, cups & tea linens. This collection is relatively new but it's growing!




I adore all her work!!!


Make sure you run over to her Facebook Page and show her some LOVE because that's what we do.

I just love my Suga' Sista's....

This is Home Girl.

Photos Used With Permission from The Sugared Apron

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Might Be A Cookie Blog

You know that old saying, "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it might be a duck."

I have been battling with the direction of my little blog for quite some time because there are a gazillion billion things that need to come out of my brain and writing them here has always been therapeutic for me.

My artistic mentor recently told me to just create things that make you and others happy, to not get caught up in all the "gobbledeegook" and then write about those experiences.

I decided to take her advice.

So, here I am admitting this truth: I am a Cookie Artist.

There, I said it.

Whew, that is a huge burden off my shoulders.


I do not plan on doing tutorials or videos on You Tube.  I will not be breaking designs down step by step for you to use.  I do plan to feature other "Cookie Crushes" that inspire me.  I might share recipes I love occasionally.  I will share with you my stories, my experiences, and the random crap that somehow becomes stuck in my brain.

If you know me then you know the random crap issue looms large in my world.

I need an outlet.

I need someone to listen without interrupting me.

Also, I need a place where I could pin my work to my Pinterest boards because that is where I keep my brain organized.


I want to be able to tell the story of a designed set of cookies that I have made, more so for my preservation, but to also convey the fact that my cookies go much deeper than what the eye can see in a photo.

I adore the fact that each cookie set I design becomes a story...each one engraving a spot on my heart.

That is the awesome thing about Custom Sugar Cookies.  From concept to completion, this type of sugar art can take anywhere from 6 hours to 3 days to complete depending upon design intensity.  This does not include time spent baking.

It also explains why hand designed sugar cookies do not come cheap.

The average price in the United States, from a top notch "cookier", runs anywhere in the range of $3-$5 per cookie..I have seen them as high as $15 each.

I do not sell to the public.  I do not classify myself as a top notch cookier. I am still a "wanna be", but I enjoy the learning process.  I am studying this craft intensely.  I am completely addicted to the art of cookies and through my disease I am able to put a smile on someone's face.



In case your wondering though...I'm still pretty Paleo (see previous posts).  It has become habit to me and although I am not as strict as I once was, I still make every effort to eat quality food and not GMO filled crap.  I have been steady at having lost more than 100 pounds since last May.

Has it influenced my baking?  Most definitely.  I make sure I am using organic ingredients and when needed, flour alternatives.

I have a regular cookie here and there though.  You know, in the name of quality control.




I'm still "Home Girl" and this is still "In the Heart of Happy"(look at the URL) which was born from "Living on The Spit"...it's just that it was time that I got right with my blog and call a spade a spade.

It definitely looks like a duck.

Welcome to She Bakes and I AM a Cookie Blog.

~
This is Home Girl and I want to welcome all your Sugar Faces to my words.

Disclaimer: All these photos are of my own work.  Steal them and you will have to deal with me and my Cookie Sisters.  Go do your own cookies!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Triangle of Success


I had a light bulb moment some time ago after transversing a very difficult period in my life.  I was seeing this amazing therapist, named Tambrya W. Klemer, LPC in Newport News, Virginia.  She looked at me one day and told me I was a narcissist.  I regally asked her for some information on this disorder and she obliged.  I took a day or so to read the information and to think about how this might pertain to me.  

I believed that I really was a princess, at that time.  No, wait...let me clarify:  I thought the world revolved around me and had no clue how I kept getting into situations that were not healthy for me.  

Yes, I was clueless.  

The more and more I read the information, the angrier I got.  I did not like thinking that I gave off an "air" of superiority.  I really did not want to "play" the victim role any longer.  

In our next session, I asked her point blank..."How do you fix this? What do I do?".

I remember that she took a second, sat back in her chair and looked straight at me.  "You accept personal responsibility for everything you do."  

That has proven to be sage wisdom in my life every day since...it repeats itself over and over....and over.  

I truly welcome those times because those are the tests that lead to good stuff: a calm, happy, and healthy life.



Personal Responsibility is huge point of being successful at anything you want to achieve.  You can have an incredible IQ and be a member of Mensa, work out and eat nutritional balanced meals (Physical Quotient), but if you lack Personal Responsibility or EQ (emotional quotient), you will never succeed...at anything.

You just won't.

Before I made the change to a Paleo Lifestyle, I was completely irresponsible with my mouth.  It was bad.  I could not make the changes necessary to save my own life without becoming honest with myself.  Although my personal success was firmly planted in good soil, I had one last monster to slay.

My Food Issues Monster.

I am smart enough to read at a fairly high level of comprehension.  (IQ is not a problem)

I knew I needed to add something physical to my life, but due to medical issues, I could not.  (PQ was horrible, but I did have the knowledge)

I was completely void of any responsibility for something that was to sustain me.  (My EQ sucked in relationship to food.)

My Success Triangle was failing...miserably.



When I made the decision to go Paleo and Go Hard, there was my therapist's voice in my head from all those years ago.  "Accept personal responsibility for your own actions."

I allowed myself to be stronger than the want of something crappy.

I loved myself enough to finally and fully let go of everything that was weighing me down.  I gave that shit wings to fly away.

I made my Triangle of Success complete.  I joined the angles together.  I keep them strong.



What I am saying here is simple.

You have to want it.  Anything in Life...not just in nutrition and finding your Real Food Blueprint.  Take some time to think if your Triangle of Success is firmly joined.

Make sure you are willing to accept responsibility for your choices.  The saying is true.  Good In/Good Out.  "When we know better, we do better." ~ Maya Angelou

Well, now you know better.  Go do better.

~ This is Home Girl

Monday, August 12, 2013

Paleo: What I Hunt and Gather

Happy Monday Everyone!  I love Mondays.  It's a shiny new week and the chance to make some great changes in your life.  I mean, sure if you are a big fan of any of the other days of the week, that's awesome too...it's just for me, I can implement changes better if they happen on a dedicated day.  For me, that's always been Monday.

The 10th of the Month is always important to me now.  It's the day of my monthly comparison photos after making this whole Paleo Lifestyle change.  I have learned to not rely on a scale to decide how much progress I am making towards gaining health and wellness.  I am more of a visual person.  It is what works for me.


As of this past Saturday, I have lost 73.8 pounds and have dropped 10 sizes since April 28, 2013.  I have lost countless inches and have gained so much of my health back.  It truly amazes me.  I am forever grateful to those who have helped guide me and be there for me as I re-educated myself about nutrition and learning the principles of a Paleo Lifestyle.

If you are just starting out with Paleo or are thinking this might be something that you want to try, I am whole heartedly behind you!  I not only want to be an example of what can happen, but to help guide people through the first month because it can be daunting.  You will need to do lots of research, you will make lists, you will be confused...I understand all that because I was once at that place.  I was just learning how to get through a day like a toddler taking his first steps.

I'm not gonna lie...that first week was HARD, but I got through it.  You will, too.

Thinking back to the beginning of Paleo for me (3.5 short months ago), I remember eating a lot of grilled chicken breast, bacon and eggs, stir fried meats, vegetables and some fruit.  As I became more comfortable with the "cans and cannots" of a Paleo Lifestyle, I slowly added in more and more nutrient rich foods to my daily repertoire.  I was learning.

Learning is good for you.  It makes you more responsible for your own success.  It gives you accountability and honestly you will need that mind frame for your own journey.

What Does My Plate Look Like?


Look at this example from Fit Bomb DOT com (great site, by the way).  It's broken up into two halves. This is how I eat literally every meal.  This is how I think....this is how I get the results above.

Meat/Protein and Vegetables

There is no weighing portions or counting calories.  I eat until I am full.  Some meals I eat more than others, but that depends on my physical activity level or my hormone levels.  I eat to fuel my engine.  Pretty simple.

Breakfast Selections include: Eggs, Avocado, Bacon, Sausage, Beef Steak, Paleo "cereal" with Almond or Coconut Milk, Bulletproof Coffee, Dinner from the night before, sauteed spinach or other greens, or a Kale/Berry Smoothie.

If I am hungry for lunch (which I never am) I might make Turkey or Chicken Roll Ups on Crisp Romaine, a fresh salad with chicken or tuna crumbles and a Paleo Dressing that I make, a bun free burger, or I just nibble out of my garden.

Big Point Here, Peeps....I only eat when I am hungry.  I listen to what my body is telling me.  I don't base my food decisions on a clock.  Just because it's noon, it does not mean I must shove something into my mouth.  This has been the most freeing concept to me. 

Dinner is once again choosing a protein source and lots of vegetables.  I keep things real simple.  This is also when I have my fruit for the day.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I eat only one serving of fruit each day to maximize my health plan.

I choose from berries, melon, and other high water weight fruits.

I do not snack.  Ever.  Just because nuts and fruit is listed as acceptable does it mean that you can go hog wild and eat a bunch if weight loss is your primary health goal.

They are "treats".

This IS the way I eat now, Monday through Friday.  Because I have some time put into this lifestyle, I do eat a little more liberally on Saturday and Sunday.  These are the days I allow for a more "Primal" diet.  I increase my carbohydrates and good starches on these days to include more fruit, full fat/grass fed dairy, Paleo approved adult beverages, snacking on Pork Rinds, and sweet potatoes.

I love it like this because after working hard all week on my nutritional needs I always can look forward to some wiggle room and relaxing things a bit.

When a new Monday rolls around, I am right back to the strict Paleo plan.  This is what the 80/20 rule is.  It is not living Paleo 5 days a week and then going back to a Standard American Diet on the weekends.  That is counter productive and will get you no where.

A cheat day is not having a couple slices of pizza, french fried potatoes, or commercial ice cream.

Wrong!

It's really pretty simple, it just seems complicated because as a world we have been taught some pretty convoluted thoughts on what is acceptable to put in our mouths.

Simplify your food and it will simplify your life.

What about ALL those Paleo/Gluten Free treats that you see on Pinterest and Facebook?  They are just that...TREATS.  These are meant to be eaten once in a great while if you are looking for weight loss.  At this point, my brain is just not ready for replacements of the things that got me to 300 pounds.  I do not need them, nor do I want them.

My body and brain crave REAL food in the form of meat and vegetables.  Boring?  Hell no.  I have never been more excited about food in my life.

High Fat/Low Carbohydrate is where I wanna be.

We have bacon...

~
This is Home Girl and I'm forever a Cave Girl.  Nothing can stop me now.

Please feel free to join me on this journey at Living In The Paleo's Paradise!  If you ever have questions or I can help "Pay It Paleo Forward", do not hesitate to shoot me a message.  Please know, you are never alone.

Need more inspiration?  "Like" The Paleo Miracle on Facebook and read about other incredible transformations!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Things Paleo Doesn't Fix

I have now been living a Paleo Lifestyle for more than 3 solid months.  The first 60 days were strict, no "cheating", hard core Paleo eating.  After I had become firmly entrenched in the diet by detoxing off sugar, wheat, other bad grains, beans, and other allergen causing foods, I then added back in full fat dairy for two days a week.  This is what we call "Primal".

Now, I use the 80/20 rule where I eat Paleo for 5 days and then more primally for 2 days.  I live for my grass fed cheese and organic heavy cream.  I also increase my carbohydrates on those days to include one more serving of fruit or some sweet potatoes.  This is what works best for me.

I am happy to report that I love it.  I absolutely adore eating and living this way.  It's like something finally clicked for me.  This is the way my body has been wanting to eat all the time.  I just wasn't listening.

I was too busy shoving crap into my mouth and living under the delusion that it was okay.  I never really understood the connection between health/wellness and food.

Over the last three months, I have learned the difference very well.

Last night, I was watching Extreme Weight Loss with Chris Powell, where transformation stories are told every week.  There was a part of the show where Chris went off his clean eating plan and ate junk and crap food for one whole day to show the client what effects poor food choices can have on you.  He could barely make it through half the day after eating McDonalds, Donuts, sodas, and then more McDonalds.  Very similar to the story of Fit, Fat, Fit who also did a cameo appearance on the show.  After consuming all those bad calories and toxins, Chris had to go lay down because he felt like he had the flu.

This was not a staged stunt.  It happens.  In real life.  I know that if I were to go back to eating a traditional Standard American Diet (SAD), I would experience the same effects.

A month into my Paleo journey, I was caught in an emergency food situation and the only choice I had was eating a Pop Tart or going hungry.  I should have chose to fast, but I ate the damn Pop Tart.

It made me so sick within an hour that I was forced to go home and get into bed.

I never made that mistake again.


Grilled Chicken Breast with Butter Sauteed Vegetables and Sauerkraut 
The positive changes that Paleo has provided me far out weigh any reason for eating something processed or on my allergen food list.

Paleo has given me:

healthy hair and nails
gorgeous skin
natural tan without using sunscreen
vitality
energy
better joint mobility
loss of fat and increased muscle mass
great sleep schedule
mood stability
resolved health issues like blood sugar, blood pressure, heart health, and chronic pain
want for simplicity
need for being outdoors
and lastly....
weight loss.


Paleo BBQ'd Beef Ribs with butter fried Green Beans and Smithfield Ham Bits
Did you notice that I said, weight loss last.  Honestly, a Paleo diet has changed my life so much for the better, by the way I feel, that I really am not obsessed with numbers on a scale any more.  There is no magical number I am hoping to achieve.  I don't weigh myself obsessively.  I know where I started and although I do weigh on my monthly anniversary to get a more complete picture of my progress, it is not the biggest indication of my achievement.  To me, I see the most in my monthly update photos and by how loose my clothes are fitting.

In three more days, I unveil my 3 month comparison.  I'm completely happy with where my life is headed.

There are good days and there are bad days.  Just because it's Paleo, it's still called life.

Bacon Veggie Omelet with Fresh Sliced Oranges

There are things that Paleo does not fix, as hard as is it to believe, but I am working on it.  I try to spend as much time fixing my thinking as I do about learning real nutrition skills.

I am a work in progress.

Paleo Does Not Fix:

Stupid
Introversion
Weather, although this is the FIRST Summer I have loved in a long time because Paleo's are more heat tolerant.
Financial Problems
Bones
Osteo-arthritis Damage
Frustrations
or
Problems

Paleo is however, showing me a different way to seek solutions.  To seek happiness and self love.  To be absolutely okay right where I am currently.

I get excited when my life becomes a little unsettled because that is usually when something really awesome is getting ready to happen.

I really like awesome.

This is Home Girl.  Paleo.  No Fear/No Excuses

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Everybody Needs A Little Time Away...

I'm on a bit of a "vacation" for the next few weeks.  I am house sitting for a wonderful artist/decorator friend who lives close to me in Historic Olde Towne, Portsmouth, Virginia.  It's a nice respite to recharge my batteries in preparation for my double Total Knee Replacement surgery that is scheduled for the end of this month.

I know it may sound weird, but I am completely excited about getting my new knees.  It's just another step I am taking to regain health and wellness after mistreating my body for so many years with unhealthy eating and life choices.

I do not expect to ever be able to be a marathon runner, but it would be nice to be able to walk more than I currently can.

I will feel victorious if I can walk a mile without constant, ball busting pain.

I will literally jump for joy if I can be training in Cross Fit and MMA Fit by Winter.  It's a major goal of mine.


I know Moscato is NOT Paleo, but I deserved a little treat.  It made for a perfect evening.  It was paired with Sautéed Collard Greens and Beef Brisket.  I do not feel the least bit guilty, either.  I stay on top of Paleo Mountain for the majority of the week (meaning I eat less fruit, more veggies, and meat.  No extra dairy except my grass fed butter in my coffee).  I do allow for two days where I eat more of a Primal Diet which includes more carbs.  To allow for the Moscato "treat", I just adjusted my fruits for the day.

Bada Bing, Bada Boom.



Sitting right here in the morning with the lap top and my Bulletproof Coffee starts my day perfectly.


I am completely in love with the chalk board painted nooks where you can find inspirational messages.


I get asked all the time, "Since you are Paleo and do not eat traditional breakfast foods like Cereal, Bagels, Toast, or Breakfast Bars...what is there left to eat?"  "Don't you get bored?"

Answer A:  There's a plethora of foods available to start your day out.  You know how cool it is to have Breakfast for Dinner?  Well, I tend to have Dinner for Breakfast now.  I usually combine lunch and breakfast together because I am never hungry in the morning.  This Bacon, Onion, Kale Stir Fry was a perfect brunch meal.  Filling and super tasty.

Bacon makes everything better.

Answer B:  Do I get bored with food?  NO!  Not since I went Paleo have I been bored with food.  I have fallen in love with cooking all over again.  My food is fresh and wholesome, the colors are vibrant and eating makes me feel alive!

I tend to "hunt and gather" on a weekly basis and whatever specials I can procure that week, get chopped, diced, shredded, and used to complete my culinary masterpieces.

I also feature a lot of my fresh vegetables that I grow myself.  Grow Food, Not Lawns!!

~

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm" ~ Winston Churchill

After three months of Living In The Paleo's Paradise, I will loudly remark that after experiencing so much failure when it comes to my health and eating a healthy diet....a Paleo Lifestyle has given me so much success.

I love this journey that I am on.  Come join me.

This is Home Girl bidding you a wonderful day.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Paleo Chicken Salad and Other Musings On a Sunday Morning


If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, then you will already know that I am self-proclaimed Chicken Salad Snob.  Before the big Paleo Lifestyle change in my diet, I had perfected a Chicken Salad recipe that was my pride and joy...it had become the favorite of several other people too.  

There is nothing more pleasing in life than a well crafted Chicken Salad.  

You can imagine my fear that I would have to give it up completely, because I had convinced myself that it would never be the same without my beloved Dukes or Hellmann's Mayonnaise.  

Unfortunately, the makers of Dukes and Hellmann's both utilize GMO and Non-Paleo ingredients in the preparation of their products.  The main offenders are Soybean Oil (will kill you), Oleo resin (plant based oils and resin extracted from Pine or Fir trees), and Calcium Di-sodium ETDA (which believe it or not, is used to dissolve Limescale).  Yeah, I don't want bathroom cleaner in my food.  

To resolve the situation, because there is no way I can live without a good Chicken Salad, I had to create a palatable version that was made with real, whole foods.  

True to my standards, I hit the proverbial nail on the head.  

~

First things first.  You have to get over your fear and make your own mayonnaise.  It's really not that hard.  In less than 5 minutes, I can have more than enough "Paleo" mayonnaise to make not only a huge bowl of this loveliness, but a few salad dressings or condiments for that bacon burger you have been craving.  

I am not going to go into "how" to make Paleo Mayo because it's that easy and there are already 14 gazillion recipes out there for it.  The only thing I will add is that when it says to drizzle the oil in SLOWLY, that you MUST do that.  You are making a suspended emulsion....unless you have an immersion blender, then disregard the slow drizzle, my shnizzle, and just add all the ingredients at one time and just go for it.  

Here is the link for the one I feel is the best.  I experiment with different oils.  Sometimes I use Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, or I get really gangsta and use bacon grease.  I just love me some Nom Nom Paleo.  Her shit's on point.

Okay, so now your mayonnaise is chillin' in the fridge. Avoid eating it right off the spoon...although you totally could and it would be fine.       

Next, let's make Chicken Salad.  



Here's what you'll need:

~I used two HUGE chicken breasts that I had baked for about 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven.  You can season it any way you want.  Then cool and rough chop.
~1 cup chopped celery.
~1 cup chopped onion.  (I used Red Onion for this batch)
~1 teaspoon minced garlic.
~Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper, to taste.  Not too much, not to little.
~1 cup Paleo Mayo whisked with 1/4 cup cool water.
***Sometimes I get adventurous and add in some chopped pepperoncini, green pepper, chopped bacon, diced grapes, chopped apples.

Mix up and chill in the fridge until you are ready to devour it.  Give all the flavors a chance to become friends.  It'll be more of a party for your mouth if you can do that.

It makes a perfect accompaniment for these baby girls, right down here.  I grew them in my garden.  I know, be jealous.


I grow a lot of our food.  It's like printing your own money.  



In fact, I need to get outside and harvest some goodies this morning.  



I wanted to add that I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Stacy and Matt from Paleo Parents yesterday at their book signing for "Beyond Bacon" at Whole Foods in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  It was an honor.  Their book is stunning, chock full of awesome recipes, and they dispel the myths revolving around the fact that most people believe that pork is bad for you.  It's not.  Get your own copy.  You will be so glad that you did.  It's not only great food porn, it's a classy and enjoyable read.


This is Home Girl and I'm off to enjoy my Sunday.  I hope you have a great day.  If you want to follow me on Facebook, please feel free to join me there.  

I have three month comparison pictures coming up on August 10th.  You don't want to miss that!

Stay Gangsta....

Home Girl