I could create quite a long list of things in this life that I love and am passionate about… baking, crafting, photography, party planning, those would all be on the list. But the items on the very top of my list would be God, my husband and our two daughters.
I have never really shared this here, but the number one reason I started this blog was with the plan and hope of being able to make enough money to send my daughters to private Christian school. Last year, I met that goal. I feel so amazingly blessed to have a job I love, one that allows me to use my creative gifts, and can provide for my girls to attend an amazing school. Our school is small and it has been a perfect fit for our family. The level of passion, love and commitment from each teacher and staff member is really amazing!
Last night our school board held an emergency all school (parent) meeting. The topic of discussion was a very significant monthly budget shortfall, due to lower than expected enrollment. Our teachers have graciously accepted a pay cut, to a wage that is already embarrassingly low. But that is not enough. There is still quite a shortage. Each school family is being asked to thoughtfully consider what they can do to help balance the budget.
In addition to my husband and I committing to make personal and financial sacrifices to do our part, the need is bigger than we can personally meet.
As you may have noticed from my blog photos, I have quite an extensive collection of beautiful props and unique baking supplies. When I come across something beautiful (baking, packaging, or party related) I often stock up, not knowing when I might “need” the items. I am often asked by readers where I purchased this or that, and although I am always willing to share where I find my goodies, they are often no longer available.
Additionally, I am often asked if I take orders for my cookies, and the answer is no. There is usually no way for anyone outside my personal circle of friends to enjoy my decorated cookies.
With all this in mind, I thought of a way we can work together to help our school, and one reader will get a pretty awesome thank you prize!
Here is what I’m offering…
One person will win a generous box of beautiful baking, party, and photography props and supplies, hand selected from my personal collection.
In addition, I will create 1 dozen decorated cookies and ship them along with the other goodies.
The box of props and baking supplies will be a mix of items from my personal collection, either brand new, or used in a photo, but still in perfect condition. I will contact the winner and discus your specific interests, such as if you are a cookie decorator, blogger, crafter, etc, and keep those interest in mind as I pack the box.
For the decorated cookies, the specific cookie designs will be my choice, but I would certainly be willing to make some custom adjustments if you want the cookies for a special occasion.
The total retail value of the prize will be well over $100, although the custom nature of the prize means it would be impossible to collect these items on your own.
How to help…
You may simply use the button below to donate money in any amount ($5, $10, $50, etc).
Using the donate button above will send money to my personal pay-pal account. As soon as the giveaway ends I will write a check directly to our school with 100% of any money donated.
Our school is a non-profit organization, and as such you can donate directly to the school to receive a tax write off. If you would like to receive the tax write off for your donation, then you may donate directly to the school via pay-pal, and send the money to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any questions about our school (Summit Christian School, located in Fair Oaks, California), please e-mail me directly at email@example.com and I would love to chat with you about this school I deeply love.
How to enter the giveaway… (Giveaway Closed)
Simply leave a comment below with what you might like to win from my supply closet.
Also, please feel free to mention if you were able to donate.
Giveaway details – Giveaway ends Wednesday, Sept. 4th, 2013 at 9pm Pacific. The winner will be chosen using random.org. Due to shipping costs, the giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Please note, the images in this post are intended to give you an idea of the various props and supplies I have on hand. The actual prize box will differ from the items pictured. One entry per person. Donating money is greatly appreciated, but will not increase your chances of winning.
Thank you in advance! I am really looking forward to packing up this special package, and making some beautiful cookies for the winner of this giveaway, and I’m excited to be able to help and encourage our hardworking school staff.
If you find my site to be of any help and inspiration to you, it would mean a ton to me if you are able to help at any level! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
************************************* Giveaway Closed **********************************
Winning comment #170 Rosemary
Thank you so very much for each of you who were able to donate! Each and every donation was greatly appreciated!!
I will leave the donate button on this post as is, for anyone who would still like to participate. The needs at our school will be on-going.
If you love cheesecake, and love Kahlua, then this rich and delicious Kahlua Cheesecake needs to be added to your “must make soon” list!
Every summer for the past 10 years or so my family has enjoyed a fun Saturday night at our friend’s big annual Luau party. For the past several years I’ve had the fun job of making dessert for all of the party guests… all 100 or so! When the party invitations go out, the guests are asked to bring a dish to share, but no dessert… that’s my job! =) I usually make 3-4 different items, and I like to make a few different things each year. In past years I’ve made Pina Colada Cupcakes, Coconut Snowballs, Cupcakes with pretty fondant flowers, and lots of different decorated cookies including Floral Luau Cookies, Grass Skirt Cookies, and Hibiscus Flower Cookies.
This year, one of the new recipes I added to the dessert menu was this delicious recipe for Kahlua Cheesecake. I used my Mini Cheesecake Pan to make 12 perfect little cheesecakes. Making cheesecakes in a mini cheesecake pan is a little bit of extra work initially, but they look extra nice in a dessert display and make a perfect small serving.
Feel free to double the listed recipe to make one large (9″) cheesecake, but since I have not done that with this recipe yet, I’m not sure of the baking time.
Mini Kahlua Cheesecakes
This rich and delicious Kahlua Cheesecake recipe makes 12 mini (2") cheesecakes.
11 Chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreos)
2 Tablespoons Challenge butter
2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
12 oz. (1 and 1/2 package) cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Kahlua (coffee liqueur)
Prepare the cheesecake pan by rubbing the inside of each cheesecake well with a lightly oiled paper towel.
Preheat oven to 350*F.
Make the crust-
Melt the butter in a small bowl. Place the oreo cookies in a large ziplock type bag, and crush using a rolling pin. Place crushed cookie crumbs in a medium sized bowl and combine with melted butter. Add about 1 tablespoon of the crust mixture into each of the 12 mini cheesecake wells. Pack down the crumbs using a shot glass or glass spice bottle. Bake crust for 10 minutes in preheated oven.
Make the filling-
Melt chocolate in a small bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend cream cheese until very smooth. Add sugar and continue to blend until fully incorporated. Add egg and vanilla, and continue to beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add melted chocolate, and blend. While blending, add Kahlua. Beat an additional 30 seconds or so.
Reduce the oven temperature to 250*F.
Open a large ziplock bag and place it in a large glass, pulling the sides of the bag down over the glass. Add the cheesecake filling to the bag, then close the bag. Snip off one corner of the bag, and fill each well of the cheesecake pan a bit more than 3/4 full with filling. If there is a bit of extra filling, you can bake it in a small ramekin for a little "tester"
Place cheesecake pan in the 250*F oven and bake cheesecakes until the filling is set, 22-25 minutes. Place the pan on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature, then place entire pan in the refrigerator about 4 hours before removing cheesecakes from the pan.
Once cool, carefully remove the cheesecakes from the pan (pressing up on the removable bottom of each well). Keep the cheesecakes in the fridge until ready to serve. Garnish with whipped cream, a chocolate covered espresso bean and a sprinkle of cinnamon or cocoa powder.
Recipe source - Glorious Treats
The cheesecakes may be made up to 2 days in advance, and kept (in a closed container) in the fridge.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll see a peek of the other desserts I made for the Luau party, including Chocolate Cupcakes, Pina Colada Cupcakes and Almond Joy Bars.
Combine cake, candy and fun colors… and this Jelly Belly Flower Cake is sure to brighten any celebration!
My family and I recently toured the (Fairfield, CA) Jelly Belly factory. It was so fun to see how these colorful and delicious little jelly beans are made! I came home from the factory with a few big bags of the newest addition to the Jelly Belly family, the Jewel Collection. These new Jelly Belly candies have a beautiful shimmery look. I was inspired to make a pretty dessert with my new “jewels” and this colorful Jelly Belly Flower Cake is what I came up with.
This cake just makes me smile, and I hope it has the same effect on you =)
After playing around with the pretty Jelly Belly candies a bit I came up with two different flower shapes to adorn the cake. Both flowers are made from 3 and 1/2 Jelly Belly, just cut in different ways.
How to make simple Jelly Belly flowers -
Each flower shown is make using 3 and 1/2 Jelly Belly. I used a small serrated knife, and used a bit of a rocking motion to cut the Jelly Belly candies.
Flower 1 (more compact) is made by cutting Jelly Belly candies in half, across the shorter part of the bean.
Flower 2 is made by cutter the Jelly Belly in half lengthwise (as shown). The flower center for this shape is the same as the center (and petals) for Flower 1. (Disregard the sanding sugar in step three of this flower, we’ll get to that in the next set of photos.)
For each flower, cut the pieces, then just lay out the flowers as you would like, onto a piece of waxed paper. Mix and match colors as desired.
Next, attach the flower parts together, using royal icing (shown below).
I made a small batch of royal icing using 2 cups powdered sugar, whisked (in my electric mixer) with 2 tablespoons meringue powder and about 4 tablespoons warm water (yes, I know 4 tablespoons is 1/4 cup, but I like to add the water a tablespoon at a time, so it’s easiest to list it this way). Beat the ingredients together, and add a bit more water as necessary to create a thick royal icing. The icing should be about the consistency of toothpaste, not so thick that it’s too hard to squeeze from a bag, but not so thin that it just oozes out into a puddle. Put (some of) the royal icing to a small ziplock type baggie (or a plastic piping bag) and snip off the end (just a bit). Remaining royal icing should be kept covered at all times.
1. Squeeze a small dot/mound of royal icing onto a piece of waxed paper (as shown above). Place one Jelly Belly half in the center, and there should be icing all around the Jelly Belly.
2. Add the other “petals”, making sure they touch some icing.
3. Once you’ve formed the flower shape, sprinkle some sanding sugar (I used pale yellow) on top of the flower, this will hide any excess royal icing. Allow the flower to sit (with the sanding sugar on top) at least 4 hours (or more). Once the royal icing is dry, remove the Jelly Belly flowers from the waxed paper, shake off any excess sanding sugar, and use flower as desired.
I also made some simple Jelly Belly leaves (pictured above). For the leaves I cut a green Jelly Belly in half lengthwise (images 1-2). Then cut each half at a diagonal, as shown (images 3-4). I made a bunch of leaves and just set them aside, then added them right to the cake after I added the flowers.
For the cake…
While the Jelly Belly flowers were drying I baked up an 8″ vanilla cake. For this cake I used a boxed mix, which is rare for me, but my focus on this cake was the decorating. I do have a delicious Vanilla Cake recipe which would work great as well. I divided the batter into two 8″ cake pans (oiled and floured, with parchment paper on the bottom) and baked according to the directions listed.
For the frosting, I made a batch of American Buttercream Frosting (with the addition of 1/2 block -4oz- cream cheese). This was the perfect amount of frosting to fill between the two cake layers and frost the outside. I frosted the cake with white (uncolored) icing, then made up two very small bowls of green icing, one using (1 drop) Americolor mint green, and one using (1 drop) Americolor Electric Green. I added a bit of the green icing along the base of the cake, then used a small off-set spatula to swirl the icing around the sides of the cake.
(Above) I frosted/crumb coated the cake in white frosting, then put the cake in the freezer just as shown above. The icing does not need to be perfect at this stage.
(Above) After the frosted cake has been in the freezer about 15 minutes, I added the two different colors of green icing (in dots, as shown), along the base of the cake. I also added a bit more white icing, as needed. Then, I used the offset spatula to smooth the icing on the sides of the cake, holding the offset spatula vertical.
(Above) After I smoothed the icing a bit, I added some texture by holding the offset spatula horizontally and dragging the end of the (rounded) blade through the icing (while turning the turntable). Work your way up the cake, then use the same motion to create a spiral in the icing on the top of the cake.
As soon as you’re happy with the icing (it does not need to be perfect, some texture adds to this look), add the Jelly Belly flowers as desired. I laid out the flowers ahead of time (on a piece of waxed paper) in the order I wanted to place them on the cake. Add a few leaves as desired.
This colorful cake could be a perfect farewell to summer, or used to brighten someone’s day most any time of year!
Happy baking and decorating!
Prop notes -
Colorful forks – Available from Shop Sweet Lulu.
Green cake stand – Purchased Spring 2013 at Costco, no longer available.
Disclosure – I was compensated by Jelly Belly with products and/or payment to create this post, but all text, images and ideas are my own.
Of all of the fun cookie designs I’ve made over the past several years, I’ve never made Pink Flamingo Cookies… so I figured it was about time! =)
Several weeks ago my friend Kim over at The Tomkat Studio posted this fun pink flamingo party inspiration board. She also shared in the post that she had been gathering flamingo party ideas (and goodies) with the plans of throwing a black, white and pink flamingo birthday party for herself. But then, she had been busy and under the weather, and was not able to celebrate with a party at all.
I loved the flamingo inspiration board, and thought that it was such a shame that a party lover like Kim hadn’t been able to celebrate her own birthday… so I knew some fun flamingo cookies were in order!
I had such fun with this set! I tried to keep the cookies as close as possible to the ideas Kim had shared, so I went with a striking pink, white and black color scheme. Some simple little stripe and dot cookies accented the main pink flamingo cookies. I added one monogramed “K” for the birthday girl. =)
How to make Pink Flamingo Cookies -
1. Bake up a batch of cookies using my Sugar Cookie Recipe, or a recipe of your choice.
2. Prepare icing using my Royal Icing Recipe. For this set you’ll need black, white, bright pink and a small amount of light pink icing. I use Americolor gel food coloring.
3. Create a flamingo royal icing transfer (as pictured below).
- First, I drew the shape I wanted on a piece of paper (using on-line clip art as inspiration). Then, lay a piece of waxed paper over the drawing and outline then fill in the flamingo shape.
- I used a thicker icing (and a #1.5 PME tip) to outline the shape, then a thinner (flood) icing (and a #1.5 PME or #2 tip) to fill in the body. As soon as the body is filled in and smooth, add a white dot for the eye, then a small black dot on top of the white.
- Allow the flamingo body (as shown below) to dry 1-3 hours before adding the lighter pink wing (as shown on the final cookies). At this time add the white and black for the flamingo’s beak as well (as shown in the final cookies). I used a medium consistency icing and #1.5 PME tip (for both the black and white).
- Allow the transfer (the flamingo) to dry FULLY (8-24 hours). Once fully dry, carefully peel back the waxed paper from the flamingo. Gail of One Tough Cookie has a great video on easily removing royal icing transfers from the waxed paper.
4. Once you’ve made your flamingo transfers (and while you wait for them to dry), outline and flood the cookies you want to put the flamingos on. I chose scalloped edged squares. I outline the cookie in black icing, allowed to dry about an hour, then flooded with white icing. After another hour or so, I added a two color dotted border (as shown below). First add one color of dots (in this case I did pink first). Allow the first color of dots (pink) to dry/set up a bit (30 minutes or more) before adding the second color (black) between the pink dots.
5. Once your flamingo transfers are fully dry and you can remove them from the waxed paper (and the white icing base on the cookies is dry) add a bit of royal icing (as glue) to the back flamingo body and carefully place the flamingo on the prepared cookies.
6. Add legs to the flamingo.
7. Once fully dry, package and share with a friend! =)
I just have to share one more fun idea…
My younger sister and her husband work with a high school church youth group that has a fun fundraising activity. The youth accept donations in exchange for requests to “flock” a persons house (so I would order a “flocking” to be sent to someone else’s house). The “flocking” involves the youth packing up their collection of several dozen classic plastic yard flamingos and late at night going to the requested addresses and quietly leaving the “flock” of flamingos all over the front lawn. In addition, a note is left on the front door explaining that they’ve been “flocked” and that the youth will return the next day to retrieve the flamingos.
Can you just imagine waking up to a whole “flock” of flamingos on your front lawn? I think it’s such a funny (and non-destructive) prank!
Happy decorating… and maybe Happy “Flocking”! =)
Several weeks ago I shared this simple yet pretty Blue and White Party (pictured), which included an easy D.I.Y. Paper Polka Dot Garland as decoration. I promised I’d share the full tutorial, but the weeks have clipped along and I’ve been busy sharing cupcakes and punch and ice cream. So before I get distracted again, I’m here to share the instructions on this easy paper garland.
This fun polka-dot garland is quite simple to make, could be made in any color and for most any occasion. The options are limitless for this fun garland… hang it behind a dessert or food table (as shown), hang it in front of your fireplace mantle (while not in use!), hang it in front of a window, or hang it in a child’s bedroom.
I love party crafts that can be made weeks in advance, and then take only moments to set up before the party.
Here’s how to make the paper polka-dot garland…
How to make a Paper Polka-dot Garland
- Craft glue
- Cardstock weight paper in the color(s) of your choice.
- Twine, string or thin ribbon
1. Cut out various sized paper circles using a paper punch, or cutting machine (such as a Cricut or Silhouette). Feel fee to make all the circles the same size if you like. For this garland I used circles that range from 1.5″-3.5″ diameter. I also used three different shades of blue paper. Use cardstock weight paper.
2. Line up the circles in a pattern, or randomly (as I did). Lay out a piece of twine (I used bakers twine from Bakers Stock), do not cut it, just roll it off of the roll. Apply a very thin bead of craft glue along the center of a paper circle, then lay the twine on the glue. (Do not use too much glue or it may warp the paper a bit)
3. Continue gluing the twine to the circles, spacing as desired. Allow to dry flat until the glue is fully dry.
Optional- If you will be hanging the garland where it will be viewed from both sides, you may want to put two matching circles back to back, with the twine glued in-between, although I don’t think it’s necessary.