Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

As another year comes to a close, most of us are spending some time thinking about their resolutions for next year.  I certainly entertain some every year, not that I am very good at keeping them.

This year I have created some resolutions for Sweet Handmade.  Here is what I am trying to make better for the year ahead.

1.  I will buy no cookie cutters in 2014.  Okay, this one is about as achievable as resolving to never eat chocolate again, but I am setting my goals high.

2.  I will be a better blogger.  I love to tell stories, but I admit I tend to neglect this blog, resorting to Facebook for the every day stuff.

3.  Post more often (on all of my social media accounts - Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr and this blog), especially the behind the scenes stuff that seems to get the most response.

4.  Learn to turn it off - the computer, that is!  I have the terrible problem of "procrastination" and I admit to spending time on useless things online and then having to work into the evening to finish orders.

5.  Ask for help when needed - this is probably my biggest challenge.  There are times help is the only way I can finish an order, whether it is hiring someone to help in the Sweet Handmade kitchen or asking my family to pitch in with meals and household chores, I have to improve this area!

I hope you are successful in any resolutions you make.  I am going to go out this morning and enjoy one last workout at the gym before it becomes packed with those who put "exercise" on their resolutions list!  Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bahamas Bound Wedding Cookies

This set of wedding/beach themed cookies were created as a wedding gift for a Bahamas-bound couple.  Packed in their suitcase, they will be enjoyed in the tropical paradise after the "I Do's"!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Snowman Families - Stocking Stuffers and Table Decorations

I love these snow families - snowmoms, snowdads, snowbrothers, snowsisters and snowbabies!! Perfect stocking stuffers or Christmas dinner table decorations!  

Sold individually - $4 for the mom/dad size, $3.75 for the brother/sister size and $3.50 for the baby size.  No minimums required, just tell me how many of each styles you like and if you have colour preferences - Merry Christmas!  (Last day for pickup is December 22).

Mom styles - toque or ear muffs
Dad styles - top hat or santa hat
Sister styles - ear muffs or crown
Brother styles - ear flap hat or toque
Baby styles - cute or cute!!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

National Cookie Day

Smack dab between Thanksgiving and Christmas is National Cookie Day.  Did you know the word "cookie" comes from the Dutch word "koekje", which means little cake.  The Dutch connection is very fitting, in my opinion!  Remember, it doesn't have to be National Cookie Day for you to enjoy a Sweet Handmade Cookie, but today is a lovely day to celebrate with this collage of some of my more recent cookies.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas Cookies 2013

I admit, I tend to be behind most people when it comes to the Christmas season.  I have a November birthday and I will not even think about the holidays until December!  So here are the first of my Christmas offerings - I created these cookies for our Christmas in September event at the Farmers' Market this summer, but have recreated them twice since then for people celebrating the holidays early this year.

A consumable gift is actually my favourite to give or receive!  My delicious cookies will please anyone on your list, from your grandmother in a nursing home to your child's teacher.

There are a number of ways to order - a dozen (mixture of all three designs) for $38.  Individually, you can order the candles for $3 each, gingerbread men for $3.50 each and the Christmas trees for $4 each - for this, the minimum order is 8.  Pickup can be arranged at your convenience during the month.

I am excitedly working on one more Christmas offering, so look for that to be posted on Monday!  I will be closed from December 22 until January 3rd, so place any orders you need for the holidays as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

6th Birthday Ballet Cookies

Evelyn's mom is a Farmers' Market vendor and I first met Evelyn when she was just three!  Every Saturday, Evelyn would make her way over to my booth for a sample, which she loved so much we had to establish the "one per week" rule!  Every summer she has been part of my Saturdays and this year requested my cookies for her birthday.  Turning 6 and celebrating with a dance theme, I created these tutu and daisy cookies for her.  I got word back from her mom that Evelyn loved her cookies and she said it was the best birthday ever because of the cookies I made for her!  "She also told everyone that you are the best cookie and sample maker ever!!!"  I can't wait to share some more samples with you next summer Evelyn - Happy Birthday!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

60th Birthday Cookies

Ann invited friends over for dinner to celebrate her friend Judy's 60th birthday.  In addition to a cookie at each place setting, Ann asked me to create a few cookies for Judy to take home.  Happy 60th birthday Judy!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lung Thank You Cookies

Having just secured a scholarship, Mali's daughter wanted to thank her supporters.  The lungs?  Well, it seemed appropriate for someone studying to become a Respiratory Therapist!  I think they turned out really cute - anybody have any other organs they need cookie-fied?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pulmonary Hypertension Ribbon and Flower Cookies

This set of cookies was create to support a Pulmonary Hypertension fundraiser held recently in Toronto.  Learn more about the Toronto Chapter of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association of Canada and help support their cause of helping people with PH live better lives!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Horse Cookies to Celebrate 22nd Birthday

Ann asked for cookies to celebrate her horseback riding daughter's 22nd birthday.  I didn't get a lot of information from Ann and when I suggested to my resident horseback rider (my youngest daughter) that I make riding boots she stopped me in my tracks.  "You don't know if this girl rides Western or English so you don't know what kind of boots to make - confusing Western and English is like when a customer hears you are a baker and thinks you make bread!"  Well, I hadn't thought about it that way!!  Thanks for clearing that up for me, daughter!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Baptism Cookies

To celebrate her son's baptism, Sonia commissioned me to create these beautiful cookies.  The inspiration came from the cake, which would be baby blue with cream and gold.  Congratulations Sonia and your entire family on this important day in Alfredo Sesto's life!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pond Hockey Cookies

Now that the winter weather seems to be around the corner (it is -6ยบ Celsius this morning!) my mind drifts to a nearby pond that is home to many winter hockey games.  I love to watch them brave the elements and hope they always remember the gear to keep them warm - mittens, toques and jerseys!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Flashback Friday - Movember

A flashback to last year that is just as relevant this month!  Is someone you know taking part in Movember to raise awareness for prostate cancer?  Reward them with some delicious Movember-themed cookies!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The 900 Cookie Challenge

In December of last year, I met Cristina, who was planning her October 2013 wedding.  She loved my cookies and wanted to incorporate them into her wedding reception.  After we exchanged a few emails, and I did up some samples, we met and signed a contract, and I placed the order on my schedule.  It was for 900 cookies, two cookies per guest, to be flooded in white with an edible image and a piped border, packaged together in one bag and closed with a ribbon.  One would go on each guest's place setting at the reception.

The finished cookies.

I was thrilled with the order, but admit that I thought about the order weekly and had dreams about it monthly from January until late September, which is when the frequency of my dreams (not always pleasant) increased substantially, as did the stress.

By the time October rolled around, which is a busy cookie month anyway, what with (Canadian) Thanksgiving and Halloween in it, I had 2000 cookies on my schedule, including another wedding order, a couple of baptisms, birthdays and my weekly farmers' market cookies.  I prefer 300 cookies per week maximum, so I knew this would be a challenging month for me.

Placing edible images onto the flooded cookies.

Because of the other cookie commitments, I had a week to make the 900 cookies.  My baking racks limited me to 200 cookies at a time and the steps involved making the dough, baking and flooding on one day, putting on the edible image and piping a border the second day and packaging on the third.  Putting edible images and piping a border onto 200 cookies was a 4 hour job.  Baking and flooding 200 cookies was another 6 hours.  Packing took a couple of hours as well.  It was a week of incredibly long days.  The statistics include over 29,000 dots piped, 20 pounds of butter, 100 cups of flour, more than 10 kilos of confectioners' sugar and 180 meters of ribbon!

Piped border - 29,000 dots piped for the entire order!

When all was said and done, here are some lessons learned:

One of my many scribbles with totals.

Lesson #1.  Count, count and recount.  The first day I rolled and cut over 500 cookies, keeping track of each batch's number of cookies.  I rolled and cut the rest over the next few days.  When I got close to the 900 mark, I counted again (as if I hadn't already counted 2 dozen times).  A portion of the cookies had already been baked, decorated and packaged, another portion had been baked but not yet decorated.  Suddenly there were cookies missing - 72 in fact.  I counted and counted again.  My husband was called in to count.  Nope - no matter what, those 72 cookies were gone.  I rolled out more dough and cut the missing 72.  When all was said and done, guess how many extra cookies I had?  Yes - 72.  It still stumps me, but I am happy I had extras as opposed to being short!

Baked, flooded and finished cookies on various racks.

Lesson #2.  I think 900 cookies might just be too many for a one-woman show like mine.  Well, perhaps if I didn't have another 1100 to make in the weeks leading up to it, it would have been less stressful.  It was do-able, it was just that it was all-consuming for so many days in a row that it stopped being fun (and that rarely happens to me, I always love making cookies!).

Cookies ready to package.
Lesson #3.  Edible images are not my friend.  I invested in an edible image printer last year and it was why I was able to take on this order, but let me tell you this:  royal icing does not change colour over time the way edible images do.

Lesson #4.  Brides as organized and relaxed as Cristina are able to think on their feet.  When I contacted Cristina to tell her the edible images were changing colour, she came up with the wonderful solution of changing the ribbon colour.

Finished cookies with ribbon #1.

Lesson #5.  Ask for help.  I have a lovely friend who has been a great supporter of my business and offered her time to package the cookies with me.  I resisted at first (I have never had any help before), but in the end I asked her to come and they were two mornings of joy and laughter, as well as good work done (she ties a beautiful bow and every bow I have tied since has been inspired by her).

Finished cookies with final ribbon choice.

Cristina's wedding day turned out cold and wet, but I am sure weather did not put a damper on their joy.  Wishing Cristina and Frank a lifetime of happiness!

Ready for delivery.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Horse Head, Riding Boot and Horseshoe Cookies

Our youngest daughter is a horse girl.  Her riding school's families asked for a horse theme for the market one Saturday.  I don't think I disappointed them!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Real Estate Cookies for Dog Lovers

Dogs Essie, Cora and Bosley needed more room to play, so their owners put their house up for sale by real estate agent and fellow dog lover Jenn Ellard.  They have now moved to a larger property and I can only imagine the fun being had by the dogs and their loving owners.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Deafblind Fundraiser Cookies

These cookies were a donation to the Deafblind Ontario Services fundraiser called "Indulge Your Senses".  A number of my friends attended and told me it was a fabulous evening.  I will be there next year for sure!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

40th Anniversary Cookies

These are the designs created to celebrate 40 years of marriage (the symbol being ruby).  It is a marriage that has produced a lot of love and a beautiful family - four children and four (almost five) grandchildren.  Congratulations Pierrette and Bruce!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Magician Top Hat with Rabbit Cookies

After her son received one of my customized sports jersey cookies at a birthday party he attended, Monika knew she wanted customized cookies for her son's birthday party as well, but was struggling with a theme.  She told me a magician was coming to the party and right away I suggested top hats with rabbits, which was a perfect choice!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving cookie platter is an annual favourite and has graced the Thanksgiving dinner table in dozens and dozens of homes over the years.  Happy Thanksgiving to all of my friends.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

60th Birthday in Silver and Gold

Ashleigh was throwing her mother a 60th birthday bash, and always a wonderful supporter of local business (we tend to throw business back and forth at each other!), she contacted me to create cookies.  She asked for a silver and gold colour scheme.  I love how they turned out and hope you can see the shimmer of the silver and gold lustre dust.  Happy birthday Lizzie!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Engagement Cookies

These beautiful and delicious cookies were created to match the invitation for Tracy and Ryan's engagement party.  Wishing you a wonderful life of happiness!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Arsenal Football (Soccer) Cookies

Ann's grandson lives in England and is a huge Arsenal Football fan.  With his 9th birthday fast approaching, the timing of his dad's visit to Canada was perfect.  His dad went home this week with a box of these cookies ready for the birthday celebration!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Animal Print Birthday Cookies

Celebrating her first birthday in her new home of Kelowna (I am only slightly jealous!), Teresa's husband arranged for me to send birthday cookies.  She sent me a message to let me know that it was a great little taste of home, but suggested that next time I tell her husband to order 2 dozen!

Here are the Animal Print Cookies at their final destination - Kelowna!! Awesome, thanks for sharing these Teresa!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Baby Shower Cookies for Twins

There are many reasons why I love my chosen profession, but the biggest reason is my wonderful customers, some of whom have become more like friends.  I met Jan more than 2 years ago and since then I have learned so much about her family through cookies!  Not long ago I made bridal shower cookies for Alison and now she and her husband are expecting twins!!  A boy and a girl!  I am so very excited for them.  Here are the cookies I made for Alison's baby shower.  Jan promised to let me know as soon as the babies arrive and I can't wait to hear the happy news.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

Baptism Dress Cookie

Planning her daughter's baptism led Lisa to me.  She wanted a baptism gown cookie for each of her guests and after some trial and error, I designed a custom cutter to fulfill this request.  Lisa is a wonderfully kind lady and sent me a note after delivery to tell me how happy she was with the cookies.

Congratulations to the whole family, especially little Dallas, on the special day!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Musical Piano Welcome Cookies

As a family, we have always encouraged our girls to love and learn music.  In addition to two guitar players in the family, we now have three people taking piano lessons - the girls and me!  The girls' piano teacher contacted me and said she wanted to give each one of her students a welcome-to-the-new-season gift and we figured out cookies were the perfect choice.  Here is hoping for a wonderful 2013-2014 season at the Piano Music Studio!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Happy Birthday Abigail Cookies

Five year old Abigail was having friends over to celebrate her birthday and her mother asked her if she wanted cupcakes or cookies.  She chose "cookies from the Farmers' Market".  What a sweetie!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fishing at the Cottage Cookies

Ashleigh wanted to get some special cookies for her dad for their time together at the cottage.  She requested a fishing theme and was happy with these beautiful and delicious cookies!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

House Cookies

Tricia, owner of Bundles of Joy Themed Gift Baskets wanted house cookies to make a mortgage broker gift basket more special.  I loved making these!  Which house is your favourite?  (I love the one in front with the dormers.)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Elegant Initial Birthday Cookies

Celebrating her 15th birthday, Chelsea's mom wanted to create a special day for her that included Sweet Handmade cookies.  She left the design up to me and I wanted to create something beautiful and elegant for this lovely young lady.  Happy birthday, Chelsea!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Thanksgiving Cookies Pre-Order

Due to an incredibly busy schedule in the month of October that already includes orders for more than 1000 cookies during the second half of the month followed by a trip to Nova Scotia with my mom, I am now taking pre-orders for my popular tray of Thanksgiving cookies, an annual Sweet Handmade tradition!  I will be able to accept only very few orders.  They will be available for pickup on Saturday, October 12 at the Bradford Farmers' Market between the hours of 8 and 1.

This beautiful and delicious tray of 18 large cookies costs $60.  Not only would these beautiful cookies enhance each of the place settings at your holiday meal, they would also make a lovely addition to a dessert table or a super hostess gift!  Place your order today.

Friday, September 6, 2013