Woo hoo! I have a new lease on life! After months holed up in my basement test kitchen, I have finished my book and returned to the world of windows, light, and fresh air (my upstairs).
Though let me tell you, reentry was in no way a seamless transition. I had a larger than usual amount of spring cleaning to do before I could feel at home in my own living space. True story: During the fall and winter, I had stockpiled decorated cookies the way a squirrel hoards its acorns, packing them into every nook and cranny of the house out of fear that I might drop a box or the icing might bleed, thus causing a costly re-shoot. By the time my book project wrapped, I couldn't walk through the upstairs -- or open the front door for that matter -- without moving a cookie box or tripping over several first. Pictured below is a small fraction of the cookies purged in recent weeks. (Yikes!)
Sure, it was difficult to see hours of work meet its fate in the garbage can. But with each thud of cookie against galvanized metal, I got closer to a free and clear mind.
Yes, there's no denying that stopping to smell the roses is a very good thing. That said, I've pulled together this garden themed newsletter to make sure you do the same! It's got everything from planning tips for a Mother's Day garden party to floral cookie designs to help you celebrate spring. Live life sweetly,
Feature: A Gift from the Garden
Mixed Seed Wafers
An enticing dichotomy, this Cookie Swap treat is thin and crisp, yet packed with the robust flavor you'd expect of a bulkier cookie! The seeds make it a natural fit for a spring garden party, too!
Photo by Steve Adams
Favorites: Everything's Coming Up Roses, A Cookie Swap Outtake
These climbing rose cookies were originally designed to whet the appetite in Cookie Swap's garden party chapter, but, sadly, they didn't make the cut. Glued to grape vines with thick royal icing, the blooms can be plucked off and eaten as pre-party teasers or post-party favors. For decorating details, see below.
Details: It's easy to find rose bud cookie cutters
online, but such it not the case for full-blown
roses. I made these cutters using a custom
cookie cutter making kit, a tool all serious and
not-so-serious decorators should have on hand.
Once baked, the roses were simply top-coated
in two shades of pink royal icing and allowed to
dry. A subtle blush was then applied to the
center of each rose using dry petal dust,
before petals were outlined in contrasting
shades of pink.
For both cutter making kits and petal dust,
Mother Deserves Best:
A Glorious Garden Party
The topic of mothers has been on my mind lately,
and not just because Mothers' Day is right around
the corner. After a year of non-stop work on my
next book Ultimate Cookies, I finally submitted the
manuscript a couple of weeks ago. While many
people supported the book along the way, the real
driving force behind it was my mom. You see, if
she hadn't made cookie decorating such a festivity
in our house, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be as crazy
about the craft as I am today!
Each Christmas my sibs and I donned her frilly
June Cleaver-esque aprons and tried our
darnedest to outdo one another with the
cleverest cookie design. Even when disfigured
cutouts or errant icing blobs foiled our plans, we
earned Mom's unswerving praise. So this got me
thinking . . . More
Ultimate Cookies & Other News
I can almost hear your sighs as I write this. Yes, I've finally updated this section with my new book -- so long, Cookie Swap cover! As you can see, my publisher and I have settled on the title: Julia M. Usher's Ultimate Cookies! The book jacket is still a work in process, but this photo should give you an idea of what's to come, as should the sneak previews, below.
Ultimate Cookies is now available for pre-sale on Amazon and, if my editing over the next few weeks goes as effortlessly (ha!) as planned, it will hit bookstores on November 1, 2011.
As with Cookie Swap, I'm planning a book tour, but this time with the help of a publicist. Here are my scheduled events so far, with many more still to come:
Called Name Dropper
, this Ultimate Cookies
project is one of my favorites.
Decked with tiny royal icing roses from fancyflours.com
, these edible place cards are perfect accoutrements for a garden party.
More book teasers can be found here.
As a reminder, you needn't wait for my new book to get your cookie decorating questions answered. I'm always available by email. (In fact, I just consulted with a fan on the construction of gingerbread candle holders for a Christmas tree!) I'm also hoping to introduce some new cookie decorating content to my site in coming months, including live videostreaming of select book tour classes and more in-depth decorating tutorials. Stay tuned!