Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Recipes and Decorating Guide and Cookie Decorating Kit!

This morning I received the nicest e-mail from Gail, one of
my Oui, Sugar! store customers who wanted me to know that
because of my Recipe and Cookie Decorating Tips Guide, she finally
was able to achieve the perfect royal icing consistency for her cookies!
I'm so happy for her and, I'm so grateful for the positive feedback too!
If you would like my Recipes and Cookie Decorating Guide, you can find it here!
Gail also picked up my Cookie Decorating Kit and said she cannot get
over how much easier it is to decorate cookies with squeeze bottles! By
the way, I've also been told how much customers love my packaging and
how they didn't want to break the seal on the box. PLEASE! Break the
Seal!! Start putting those kit goodies to work decorating your cookies!
Seriously... I know I've said it before but I'm happy to say it
again, Thank You for all of your warm and positive responses!
And... Remember, whether you visit my store or not,
I'm happy to help. So if you have questions, just ask!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Biltmore, Autumn 2013

 I was on my own today and SpaBoy had the day off...
So we escaped to Asheville!
And, to Biltmore Estate!
When we arrived in Asheville it was a chilly 32
degrees so we took an early tour inside the house!
But after lunch, after it warmed up a bit, we took the architect's tour!
And spent an hour or so poking around the roof tops of Biltmore!
I enjoyed it as much this time as I did the first time!
Some people own timeshares...
We have Biltmore!
What we pay for our annual pass is kinda like our maintenance fee!
When it comes to get-aways close to home...
Nothing beats Asheville and Biltmore!
SpaBoy and I weren't even out the door before
we began planning our next visit and tour!
It's called the premium tour and for $135 per person,
you get to choose the areas of the house you want to see!
High on SpaBoy's list is the organ loft...
High on my list are George and Edith's bathrooms!
Biltmore was as beautiful as ever today. And, just like
our visit around this time last year, the Ranger is
deployed again and we ran into another wedding party!
My favorite visits to Biltmore have been
the ones when mom and dad were with us...
Everywhere I look there are happy
memories of time spent here with them!
Seems like just yesterday they were here to enjoy
I can't believe that was already six months ago...
But... The planting beds at Biltmore never lie!
I hope you're having an amazing weekend too!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Thank You for a Fantastically Sweet First Week!

It's the end of week one for our little Oui, Sugar! marketplace and I want to send out BIG LOVE and THANKS to all my readers for helping make the experience everything I imagined it would be! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your purchases and especially the wonderful feedback so many of you have been so kind to share. 

One can never be sure what will happen when they put themselves out there... Or how what they share with others will be received; however, the way my little Oui, Sugar! on-line store project has been embraced is more than I could have hoped for... So, thank YOU!

Last night, after working five long hours to put the living room back together, I found this lovely note from my very first customer, Nicole in Portland, Oregon - She wrote:

Nicole posted on Oui, Sugar's timeline
I had an awesome surprise waiting at my door when I got home today....my package arrived! It was definitely a welcome surprise since I thought it would be delivered tomorrow! Everything is all I had hoped (knew) it would be and more. The number cutters are beautiful, even the packaging is pretty....I didn't even want to slice open your pretty labels on the boxes!! :) I can't wait to start baking this weekend!!

I've already burned through more than half your guide, and so far you have addressed all my questions! Finally, someone has made it easy for me! I am honored to be your very first customer.... now I'm saving up for the cat and mouse cutter set!

Thanks so much for dreaming up Oui, Sugar! and also for making it happen!! :) You have put a huge smile on my face!!

Receiving such a positive and warm review about my products and packaging helped validate all the hard work that went into launching this project. I especially love Nicole's comment about my Recipes and Cookie Decorating Tips Guide since helping you create cookies is something I've always been passionate about!

Yesterday was just a great day all the way around!

First, I had an early morning e-mail from Ranger that included a photo, which has never happened during any of his previous four deployments. To see his face... Well, you have no idea how much that helped - I have floating on air ever since!

Also, when I got home from the dream-job, I found the hardwood flooring project Army dad has been working on all week is complete. Last weekend he promised me that the house would be put back together by this weekend and as usual, he has delivered! 

At first I was a little unsure... I mean, going from this:
To this:
Was quite a shock! Frankly, I was worried because it appeared a lot more
red than I remembered from the sample. In my mind I thought it was closer
to honey than redwood. But in the end, once the furniture was put in place...
My confidence returned and I knew I made the right choice! There's still a lot
of work left to do... I asked for the outlets to be moved to help hide them from
view so there's painting that needs to happen, now that the drywall repairs are
complete. And, there's a whole lot of cleaning that needs to happen too! Of
course, I'll be rearranging things for a while because everything feels a bit
out of place. Of course, as soon as I get everything back together, it will be
time to decorate for the holidays and I'll have to start over again! But...
That's okay because I've got nothing but time!

Again, thank you for your support and encouragement for Oui, Sugar! and please... Never, ever underestimate how much I appreciate your readership. It thrills me to have you reading along!

Happy Weekend!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Welcome to the Oui, Sugar! Marketplace!

Today I'm delighted to finally be able to announce the launch of my Oui, Sugar! marketplace. This on-line retail space serves as a compliment to the content shared with you through my blog since I began publishing in 2007 and... I Welcome You!

At the Oui, Sugar! marketplace you'll find many of the products I use and enjoy in my home, in the kitchen and in my gardens! Everything from collectible copper cookie cutters, cookie recipe and decorating guides and other tools necessary to create decorated sugar cookies your friends and family will insist are too pretty to eat, to charming, old-world and vintage accessories and... A bit of everything in-between. If you've ever wished to shop a personal collection of inspired treasures and collections... Now you can!

I'm beyond excited to also announce that my friend David has launched his on-line store, Heritage Home today. I hope you'll pop over for a peek at all the marvelous items he has personally selected just for you as well!

I owe great thanks to you, my readers for your support over the years... You've always been so wonderfully kind and generous with your input, compliments and questions - And, it is through this exchange of ideas between us that the Oui, Sugar! marketplace came to be!

Your visits to my blog not only delight me, they also benefit Wounded Warrior Project since all traffic revenue paid by BlogHer has always been donated to this cause. I'm pleased to say that profits generated by sales at Oui, Sugar! for the first six months will also be added to those donations. Therefore, I thank you in advance for your patronage!

I wish to also thank David for his continued friendship and encouragement as we collaborated on our respective stores over these past many months. And, to Michael Bonne goes my appreciation for his partnership to deliver new copper cookie cutter sets in the tradition of our old favorites.

I hope you will join me at the Oui, Sugar! marketplace and that you will continue to grace me with your valued readership, friendship and support.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Oui, Sugar! Numbers Copper Cookie Cutter Set!

I finally had two minutes to myself this morning to decorate
those numbers I created with my Halloween cookies last week!
Can I just tell you how much I love these number cutters... I mean,
they are fantastic! They create perfect number cookies and unlike other
number cookie cutter sets, I designed a real number nine! None of that
turning the number six up-side-down for us... We deserve a proper #9!
My design, brought to life in gleaming copper by Michael Bonne...
Cookie cutters just don't get any better than that! If I do say so myself...
So this morning I mixed up my Royal Icing Recipe and got to work! By
the way, a reader asked me the other day how I load icing into my squeeze
bottles and, this is how! I transfer the icing into a large disposable decorating
bag first, then snip off the end and fill my bottles. It's the only way to go!
The plastic bag is air-tight, which keeps the icing from crusting between fills too!
So let's decorate some number cookies, shall we?
These numbers make perfect party favors as well as cake
toppers to celebrate milestone birthdays and anniversaries too!
You are going to love this cookie cutter set as much as I do... Promise!

My dear friend David and I are putting the finishing touches on our on-line stores and
expect to launch tomorrow. I hope you enjoy what we've put together to help make life a little sweeter for you!

Oui,Sugar! Royal Icing Recipe

Today I want to share with you something I am
asked about all the time... My Royal Icing recipe!
If you've ever tried to work with royal icing you may know that it can be a bit
fussy. And, you may also know that following some of the recipes out there
can lead to plenty of frustration and lots and lots of wasted ingredients...
So let's talk about how to achieve royal icing worthy of our cookies!
First of all, do not depend on a box or bag of powdered sugar to actually
be a pound (or two pounds) of sugar. I've found a two pound bag of sugar
can weigh almost a quarter pound more! Also, sifting powdered sugar is
not optional. To achieve smooth royal icing, sifting is absolutely essential!
My recipe does not depend on pound measurements at all... To
create perfect royal icing, I measure my powdered sugar in cups!
In my opinion, whether you use meringue powder or egg whites, royal icing
leaves a lot to be desired in terms of taste. Personally, I believe the culprit
to be the sugar. I used to add extracts to flavor my royal icing; however, I've
found that fresh lemon juice is the only way to achieve a truly delicious icing!
If you have your heart set on a vanilla or almond flavored royal icing you can still
add those extracts (as long as they are clear/colorless) but do yourself a favor and
keep the lemon juice! It adds a little zip and a clean-tasting finish to royal icing!
Make sure you use a press with strainer to ensure
no seeds or bits of pulp escape into your icing!
For my recipe, I use 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and 9 tablespoons
of warm/hot water and I never convert the tablespoons into cups!
I confess to being raw-egg phobic when it comes to using them in recipes that
require no cooking... Therefore, I rely on meringue powder for my royal icing!
Measure out seven tables spoons of meringue powder into
eight cups of sifted powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer...
Whisk the powdered sugar and meringue powder to incorporate and then
add 9 tablespoons of warm/hot water and 3 tablespoons of fresh-squeed
lemon juice. I use warm/hot water because I believe it helps to dissolve the
sugar better, for a creamier/smoother result. I also recommend you mix your
icing on medium speed and only until it comes together and begins to shine...
Those other recipes that instruct to mix on high speed for 10-12 minutes only
produce dry, brittle and broken royal icing. Trust me... 4-5 minutes is all you need!
After it is mixed, I immediately transfer my icing to quart-size
containers. These containers make it easier to keep my icing
air-tight because air is the enemy of royal icing before it's used!
My recipe yields 1.25 quarts of icing, which is plenty to ice two dozen
5-inch cookies. Remember this... It is always better to have too much
icing than too little. I find that when I'm worried about whether or
not I have enough icing, my decorating becomes less creative. When
there's plenty of icing to experiment with more colors/designs... I do!
After loading my icing into containers, I tap the bottom of them on the
counter to remove air pockets and settle the icing. Then, I press plastic
wrap directly onto the surface of the icing and seal it all up with a lid!
How you store your royal icing is just as important as the recipe you
use. I also do my best not to tint more icing than I need because after
it is tinted, royal icing is almost impossible to keep for more than a
few hours. To store not-tinted icing overnight, I first make sure it is
completely covered with plastic wrap, the lid is on tight and then I
turn the container up-side-down and place it into the refrigerator!
Refrigerated royal icing will keep up to two days. I don't find it
necessary to let my icing come to room temperature before using
it but I always give it a few stirs with a spoon to ensure there's no
separation of the sugar and liquid... And, to get it moving again!
Remember too that temperature and humidity play a big
part in how royal icing behaves. I find that as long as I am
comfortable playing in my kitchen my royal icing will be too!
Before I publish my royal icing recipe for
you I want to leave you with this tip...
Seriously though... When I need only a tiny bit of icing to
complete a cookie, I avoid messing up a clean bottle or
using another decorating bag by loading just the tip!
After the tip is filled, I attach it to one of my decorating bottles...
And, go to work to...
Finish my cookie! After I'm finished, all I have to clean is
the tip and bottle coupler. If a little icing gets on the rim of
the bottle, I just wipe it clean with a damp paper towel!
If you would like to give my royal icing a try to achieve
decorating results like the ones I'm about to share with you...
Grab a pen and write this down!
Measure 8 Cups of sifted Powdered Sugar
into the bowl of your stand mixer...
Add to the sugar, 7 Tablespoons Meringue Powder, which
comes as part of my Oui, Sugar! 24-piece decorating kit here
Whisk the sugar and meringue powder gently to incorporate...
Add 9 Tablespoons of warm/hot water to this mixture...
Add 3 Tablespoons of fresh-squeezed Lemon Juice...
And, mix on medium speed, using the paddle attachment for your mixer...
Mix 4-5 minutes or just until your icing comes together and begins to shine!
You're looking for a pearly, glossy shine and...
The consistency of smooth peanut butter or toothpaste!
Transfer your icing to quart-sized containers
If you don't have them, a bowl is fine
Cover by pressing plastic wrap directly onto the surface of your icing...
Seal with a lid...
Or another piece of plastic wrap if covering a bowl
Until ready for use! Tint or use icing straight from the container in its
just-mixed state to outline or write on cookies or tint and thin with warm
water to achieve the consistency of maple syrup to flood cookie surfaces 
Remember, if you have questions, I cover all of this and more in my