Sunday, July 15, 2012

Relaxation 6 cookies at a time

We know that lots of people do lots of different things to relax. We know that Kate enjoys the Zen of knitting on 4 needles, going round and round in an endless spiral of blissful meditation. We know people who paint for pleasure and people who doodle. Winston Churchill was a pretty high-powered guy and he found relaxation in brick-laying. Whatever works, we say. We make no value judgments because we've discovered a fairly off-beat relaxation technique ourselves.

We seem to gravitate toward cookie decorating. Not the way Paula does it. Not quite. She makes beautiful cookies, worthy of sale. Professional-looking cookies (that no doubt taste great!). And, she makes them in quantity. She can turn out several dozen cookies, all nearly identically perfect.

If we had to make 3 dozen of ANYTHING, we'd probably tear our hair out. No, what we like to do for relaxation is ... dabble. (You're shocked. We know.) So, just in case there are any other dabblers out there, or anyone who'd just like to give this cookie decorating lark a try, here's our (low-cost) approach:

First of all, you want to spend some time baking up a stash of cookies to decorate. We have our favourite recipe for Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies. We cut out a bunch of circles or squares, nothing fancy. Just be sure to make them big enough so you have a good-sized canvas to work on. When they're cool, we put them in an air-tight container and pop them in the freezer. That way, we'll be ready when inspiration strikes (or stress overwhelms us).

We take a half-dozen cookies out of the freezer and let them warm up to room temperature. While we're waiting, we mix up the icing. Here's the recipe for just the right amount of Royal icing for a few cookies:

Beat 1 tablespoon of pasteurized egg white (the kind you get in a carton in the grocery store now) in a small bowl until it's stiff. Next, add a tiny pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp of flavouring (vanilla or almond or peppermint). Measure out about 1 cup of icing sugar and add about 3/4 of that amount to your icing. Keep adding icing sugar until it's a good spreadable consistency. If you're unsure, have a look at this tutorial. (What that lady doesn't know about cookie decorating isn't worth knowing.) Cover the bowl of icing with plastic wrap ... lay it right down on the surface of the icing ... and prepare your wax paper cones. The air that was trapped in the icing will surface while it sits and you won't get unsightly bubbles in your finished icing.

You can splurge on expensive piping bags and tips OR you can get your feet wet the Grandma Coco way and make some cheapo wax paper cones. Because we're using tiny amounts of icing, the wax paper works great. You could also try parchment paper OR you could even use plastic ziplok bags and cut a tiny hole in the bottom corner to squeeze out the icing. Your choice. We use wax paper 'cuz it's cheap!

Our paper is 12 inches wide so we cut 12 inch lengths from the roll and then we cut the 12 inch squares in half diagonally.

Roll these up as in the photo and fold down the top edge triangle where the cut edges meet. We put a tiny piece of Scotch Tape just above the point of the cone to keep it nice and secure.

Now, you're ready to ice!! Or, as we like to think of're ready to paint with icing.  We use a spatula to cover each cookie with a base coat of white. This makes a nice blank canvas for our painting. Once all 6 cookies are primed, set them aside to dry. For best results, we leave them for several hours until they're completely dry.

In the meantime, the icing you'll paint with needs to be a bit stiffer so you can add in some of that leftover icing sugar until you get the consistency you like. Now, you can make the colours you think you'd like to work with. Put a dollop of icing in a small bowl and add food colouring to get the correct tint. We use the gel colourings you use for cake decorating. They're a bit pricey but they give nice, deep colours (and we had some on hand). You can use the cheaper, watery food colouring you get in the grocery store but your icing will be paler. Don't forget that cocoa powder will make a nice dark brown.

Put a spoonful of the icing in your cone, twist it shut and squeeze the icing down to the point. Snip off a tiny bit from the point and you're in business! When you're finished for the day, you can toss the paper cones in the garbage. No clean-up required! OR you can put the cones in a ziplok bag and refrigerate for another day. (You'll have to squeeze the icing out and adjust the consistency and use a new paper cone though. They get a little soggy. Don't try to keep the icing for more than 7 days in the fridge. We think it would probably not be safe to eat after that time. And you know how Grandma Coco feels about food safety.)

So, for today's experiment, we wondered what might happen if we used a couple of different shades of the same green, working from darkest to lightest, building up the foliage the way we might approach a painting. July, here in the Kingdom, is always full of Orange Lilies. Bright and beautiful, every country road is lined with them.

If you try our system of cookie decorating, we'd love to see photos of the results.
~ Stay cool ... and calm and soldier on! And as our good friend Winston said, "We shall not flag or fail!" (We don`t think he`d mind if we chilled out from time to time though!)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hi-Ho! Hi-Ho! It's off to work we go!

Big news! BIG! Grandma Coco's joined the staff at The Quilt Pattern Magazine. Yes! It's true! We're the new Copy Editor on the block.

Now, doesn't this sound like the perfect fit for Grandma Coco? She just loves to nitpick the finer points of spelling and grammar. She could be your worst nightmare if Cheryl didn't rein her in from time to spite of the fact, that GC just spelled it "reign" and Cheryl had to google to correct her. That's one of the problems with setting yourself up as an expert. Every now and then, you're going to mess up and everybody's going to see you're human. Sigh. And in Grandma Coco's case ... extremely, spectacularly (and often) human.

You see, EVERYBODY makes a mistake now and then and really, as long as the meaning is still clear, what's the harm? Language is how we communicate. Obviously. Sometimes, we need to be careful in order to communicate clearly. Sometimes, we say something inadvertent with our grammar/spelling errors. We've been doing a lot of driving recently on the same stretch of highway and we pass a new roadside stand that offers "French fries and ice creme." Not ice cream. It's a spelling mistake, right? A simple spelling mistake. And yet, we can't help wondering if attention to correct spelling and attention to food handling safety, say, might be related. It just makes us wonder. But, hey, you all know by now Grandma Coco's not the most easy-going gal. She's a hypochondriac with (self-diagnosed) Generalized Anxiety Disorder who worries about waiters spitting in her food at the best of times. So it might just be us.

There are a couple of things we're sure of though ... Grandma Coco's going to make a few mistakes. Maybe more than a few. However, she's looking forward to her new duties at the magazine. She's always thought it was a great magazine with a terrific premise which is to offer good quilt designs (that have all been thoroughly tested for accuracy) and some interesting articles each month, at a good price AND offer them in a format that doesn't destroy the planet.

And that other thing we're sure of? ... There will be no spitting in the food at The Quilt Pattern Magazine.

Monday, July 9, 2012


The Illustration Friday prompt is 'suspend'. Every Friday we get the email with the current prompt and every Friday we imagine what we might draw. Unfortunately, some weeks seem to have more hours in them than others. This time, we thought about suspending things.... as in, hanging things ... and that brought us almost right away to this ...

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2012

The basic, no frills clothesline has been a part of our life as far back as we can remember. Mom had an out-door clothesline even when we were kids. Everyone had one back then. We remember her coming back inside in the middle of winter with icy fingers, red and stiff from the cold. We remember when we camped and later at the cottage, the makeshift clothesline heavy with wet bathing suits and soggy towels.

Are you old enough to remember when Monday was the traditional laundry day? When ladies throughout the neighbourhood vied to display the whitest whites? Now, every day is laundry day. Wear something once and toss it in the machine. So easy. So deceptively easy.

We remember the heavenly scent of wind-blown laundry... especially in winter. Now, that's a fragrance that Proctor and Gamble has never succeeded in duplicating no matter how hard they try.

We've had a clothesline all our married life except for a very short time at the beginning when we were apartment captives. We had a clothesline long before it became the environmentally responsible thing to do. In the winter now, Mr. Coco uses an ancient wire drying rack by the wood stove in the basement. (Yeah, we said "Mr. Coco". We know. He's a peach!) We had an electric dryer for emergencies but after a full decade of not using it, Mr. Coco dragged it out onto the front lawn and put a big FREE sign on it and a young man was delighted to haul it off to use for his growing family.

We are shocked ... no, better make that outraged... that some communities have outlawed backyard clotheslines. Apparently, some people find them unsightly. Apparently, the sight of other people's (clean!) underwear waving in the breeze is more than some people can abide. What a shame.

We doubt 50 years from now, any kid is going to have fond memories of the family clothes dryer. But, you know, stranger things have happened. Maybe, that same kid will wax poetic about the Spring Fresh dryer sheet scent of the still-warm laundry ... while the poor, old planet takes its last wheezing breath. Who knows?

Friday, July 6, 2012

With a little help from our friends

... and strangers.

We're re-running a drawing from last year because ... well, we just like it. We like the sense of caring and concern that one lady has for the other. We all need that from time to time. A friendly word. A comforting touch. Sometimes we need to receive compassion and sometimes we get to be the strong, helpful one. This past week, we've been on the receiving end of kindness. It has been greatly appreciated.

On this fiercely hot and non-air-conditioned (at least here, in the Kingdom of Coco) day, we were randomly tooling around the internet and happened on a very timely post from a new-to-us blog ... Y.O. in the House

Karen points out that we're all dependent on each other. What a great place this would be if we all tried just a little bit harder to help each other out.

Just like Karen, we had an interesting experience this past weekend. We were visiting our dad in the hospital on Saturday when the cafeteria was closed. A little old lady appeared with a twenty dollar bill all scrunched up in her hand asking if we knew how to get into it. We told her it was closed but there were vending machines available. No machine for changing her bill though. :(  The sandwich she wanted was a measley $3.50 so we offered to buy her lunch. "Lunch is on us!", we said. And that's when we realized she was mentally not all there. What would have happened if we'd just stopped at "The cafeteria's closed."? She probably wouldn't have starved but she would still have been hungry. As for us, we've been floating all week on the high we got from doing something nice for someone we didn't even know. Something that cost us nothing, really, in the great, grand scheme of things.

That same high is out there waiting for you. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

We have company

Just a quick news flash this morning before we head off on a wild day of shopping, chores and hospital visiting....

Our very good friend and faithful blog commenter, Kate, has taken the plunge and started her very own blog.......
Have a look:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pulling on our big girl panties

We received so many supportive messages from our cyber friends. Thanks to everybody who took the time to reach out. There's not much creating going on right now but we'll make the most of what little there is. We'll fake it 'til we make it, as they say.....

Fortunately, for us, we have other people's work to show today. Our friend, Maria, finished her Papa Bear Sampler Scarf. She made it as a gift and we're sure the recipient will love it. We forgot to ask exactly which yarn she used but we know it's acrylic. Maria was unable to steam the finished scarf. Instead, she pinned it out and wet it well and left it to dry. This is interesting! because she got very good definition of her textured stitches even without resorting to "killing" the acrylic. We'll file that little tidbit of information away and pull it out some other day when we need to block the supposedly unblockable acrylic. This is how we learn, isn't it? We try. We pay attention. We share the info. And everybody benefits. Thank you, Maria. Your scarf looks great!!

Maria's Papa Bear Sampler Scarf

A couple of weeks ago, we pulled out a few cookies from the stash of baked ones in the freezer. We're still using up the lemon sugar cookies. We decided to paint them with Royal Icing in a dainty flower design. We gave them each a base coat of white and when that was dry we added leaves and flowers with waxed paper decorating cones in the same way you might paint leaves and flowers with a brush. Each cookie is unique because we didn't have a plan for uniformity. We played with 8 cookies in all, got tired and put the rest away. We are sure the sugar we've been main-lining since January is one of the causes of our low mood so, what to do with these 8 cookies? Back in the freezer they went. Each one in his own plastic wrapper.

~Please, feel free to drop by for tea. We'll have cookies waiting for you!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Rainy days

No one's immune, we guess. Everyone has good times and bad times. We all get our share. Those who know us, know we're struggling these days. Wondering it this blog is worth the effort. Wondering where in the world we're going? Wondering what the heck the point is ...

In the meantime, we put one foot ahead of the other and keep moving. That's all anyone can do. Just keep moving. After all, it's harder to hit a moving target, right? :)

Two announcements today ...  Ta - da!! and drumroll, please!

1) Today marks the d├ębut of our column, Wish you were here: Postcards from the Kingdom of Coco, in the July issue of   Quilt Pattern Magazine.

and  2)  
Did you hear???

We are pleased to announce that our friend, Karen Neary, has had her gorgeous quilt, Ostentation, selected as a finalist in the Timeless Treasures Stitch Star Contest.

You can vote for People's Choice Award right here:

~ Keep on truckin' (showing our age with that choice of phrase, we fear) ...
 Oh, and    Happy Canada Day!