Monday, December 28, 2015

Organizing Your Cookie Cutter Collection

Have you reached the point where finding that one cutter you need within all of your cookie cutters is more of a task than actually decorating the cookies? Fear not. I arrived at that destination many years ago in a land far, far away. There is hope. I promise.

If you have this happy problem then, 1) you are blessed enough to own lots of great shapes and, 2) it's time to do something to make your life easier.

I realized it was time to get down to some serious organization when I bought the exact same cutter as I already owned (twice!) because I couldn't remember if I'd purchased it previously, had received it as a gift, or if it was just on my want list. There had to be a better way than relying on my already full brain.


I'm so very happy to have resolved this. Not only can I go right to the tub the cutter resides in but I can sit at my computer and know in an instant what size it is. It seems like a lot of work up front but I promise it pays off in spades (or hearts) later on. I keep all of my newly purchased items in a box until I'm ready for a photo shoot. This happens about once or twice a year. You may not suffer from the same cookie cutter collection addiction as I do so your photo sessions may be spread out even more. I both hope you do and hope you don't have this affliction. Because I care about you. And your cutters. And I want so very badly to belong to a group. Even if it's "Cookie Cutters Anonymous."

Let's fix this, shall we? A simple 8-Step Program is all you need.

Step 1: Purchase a grid pattern cutting mat. I like this one.

Step 2: Get all of your cutters out and sort them into categories. I use brown grocery bags with the category name written on the outside for this step. My categories have grown and evolved over the years but they've stayed pretty much the same for more than 10 years now. This is what makes sense in my crazy brain. 

 1) Alphabets Numbers and Text
 2) Animals Farms Barnyard Dog Bones
 3) Babies
 4) Balloons Birthdays Party Packages Bows Bubbles
 5) Baptisms Christenings Confirmations 
 6) Birds Birdcages Bird Houses
 7) Bridal Engagement Shower Wedding 
      (See also: GLASSES for champagne, ALPHABETS NUMBERS for year number, VALENTINES for hearts)
 8) Butterflies Bugs Frogs
 9) Characters Trademarked
10) Clothes Shoes Hats Accessories
11) Clowns Circus Carousels Jesters Wizards Fairies Unicorns Monsters
12) Cowboy Western
13) Fish Shells Lighthouse Summer Pirates
14) Flowers Gardening Umbrella Cactus
15) Fruits Veggies
16) Geometrics and Classic Shapes
17) Gingerbread People Hands Feet
18) Glamour Princess Crowns
19) Glasses Teapots Wine Utensils Food
20) Holidays Alphabetical
      Chinese New Year
      Subcategories: Angels, Bells, Candles, Candy Canes, Christmas gifts & tags, Christmas Trees, Christmas Words, Jingle Bells, Lightbulbs & 
       strands, Nativity, Nutcracker, Ornaments, Other or Mixed sets, Pinecones, Poinsettias, Reindeer, Santa/Sleigh/Suit/etc, Snowflakes, 
       Snowmen, Stockings and Mittens, Wreaths and Holly.      
     Cinco de Mayo
      Fathers Day
      Fourth of July/Maps/Patriotic/Travel
      Groundhog Day
      Halloween/Day of the Dead 
       (See also BUTTERFLIES BUGS FROGS for spiders)
      Mardi Gras
      Mothers Day
      New Years Day
      St Patricks Day
      Valentines Day/Hearts
21) Houses Buildings Churches Fences City Skylines
22) Leaves Acorns Pinecones Trees Natural Landscapes 
       (See also CHRISTMAS re Pinecones & Pine Trees)
23) Mens Hunting Camping
24) Moons Stars Suns Planets Rockets
25) Music
26) Occupations Tools 
       (See also Ballet, Construction, Firemen, Graduation, Office, Office, School, Sewing, etc) 
27) Sports Toys Games Casino
28) Transportation

If you're having trouble deciding which category your cutter belongs in, choose the very first one that comes to mind. Chances are your brain will go back to this same spot when you want to find it again. Something like a cowboy hat could be filed to Clothes Shoes Hats Accessories but it's always going to be used with a Cowboy Western theme so that's where it resides. Same for hard hats being placed in the Occupations Tools bin. But where to put a robot? I used #27 Sports Toys Games Casino but you should use the category that makes the most sense to you.

The photos of some of my cutters and sets are copied to more than one category in the computer files but the actual cutters have to live in only one place. Naming the files allows you to do word searches later on if needed. (Step 5) 

Step 3: Photograph each cutter while on the grid mat to show the exact size. REALLY helps with planning! You don't need a special camera or equipment for this. A camera phone works fine. I place the cutter one inch inside the numbered borders so the numbers won't be blocked by the cutter. To measure I just count the one inch squares or subtract one inch from each side. See the bee cutter photo above.

Step 4: Edit your photos if needed. I usually have to crop and straighten them a little no matter how hard I try to get a straight on shot.

Step 5: Create individual files on your computer for each of the categories above. Name each image so that you can do a word search to bring up all of the heart or alphabet cutters you own. Or any other named cutters you are looking for. Put the image in the proper file and copy it to other files as needed. UPDATE: it is handy to note which category you've stored the actual cutter to in bold text in the file name.

Step 6: Purchase containers for the categories depending on the size you need. Create labels on your computer by typing in the category name, printing to card stock and placing the printout either inside for see thru or by taping to the outside if not using clear containers.

Step 7: Place the contents of the grocery bags used for sorting into the labeled containers.

Step 8: Repeat Steps 2-4 and 7 as needed after CookieCon or any other shopping binge.

Hope this helps get your cutters in order and on your way to the fun part, decorating!!!

I've taken this one step further and created files with same names as my cutter categories but followed the file name with "IDEAS." This was long before Pinterest so you may choose to do some organizing of what inspires you there. This way when you finally get around to making whatever odd cookie that you never knew you were going to need, like a pirate theme, you'll have already saved some cute ideas as you came across them. The only draw back to Pinterest is the sorting and text searching and that's when the plain old computer files win.

I'm in the process of creating a lending library for other cookiers in my area so that someone else might benefit from my sickness. At last count over 4000 cutters reside with me. But that was before CookieCon 2015. The saga continues . . .

Sweet regards,

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Surprise Inside Buffalo/Lumberjack Plaid Cake

Merry Christmas! Or Chris-Moose if you prefer! Hope you are loving life and the season and taking time to savor a special moment now and again.


Not sure WHAT possessed me to finish this cake so late in the game with the big day only two days away. No more room in the freezer perhaps?

The layers have been chilling out for some time while the oven door was overworked with loads and loads of Christmas cookies. My favorite holiday activity is baking. Anything. (Could you guess?) Mostly cookies because they're such a happy treat but I've been known to indulge in cupcakes, tartlets, cinnamon rolls and special breads from time to time. And with all of those baked and safely delivered and the Christmas packages mailed and the snow shoveled, well, mostly shoveled, I finally took time out to put this together. The snow just had to wait today. By the way, what exactly happened to December? I turned around twice and it was just g o n e. 


My first attempt at this design was "okay" but I wanted this second try to be a little closer to what was in my head. Didn't even bother to finish or frost the first try but once I fully defined the exterior elements I couldn't wait to finish this one! After thinking I'd get it done for November or Movember and then having that deadline slip past, I just couldn't bear to have it looming into next year. So my Christmas gift to myself was to finish this project.


I will never admit to how many hours, wait, minutes. It was just minutes, right? Anyway, the moose took WAY longer than I'd planned. Tried him out of peanut butter chips then caramel then peanut butter candy melts and finally got one that worked. And I thought that was going to be the simple part. Silly girl! Just when I thought I had a beautiful caramel shape all finished, some very cute deer decided to pop in. On our upper deck. Not their usual hangout. So I dropped what I was doing to take some (lots) of video of them eating anything they could find in the snow laden pots and planters. When I returned to the task at hand I discovered I'd set something on top of the moose in my haste. Sticky mess so I decided to try something else. The peanut butter candy melts were the winner. Right color. Tasty. And easy to pipe when heated. The peanut butter chips were much more temperamental  during the melting so go with the easy stuff if you decide to give this a try.


The rosemary sprigs and cranberries were the simple part. Simple yet striking somehow. Love them very much. I was going to hand cut the squares for the plaid strip but decided it would be quicker and as effective to use an edible image. Didn't love the way it warped or decided to be green instead of black but kept on going in spite of the hiccups.

Want to see it being cut?

inspiration for the next madness
And now hopefully I can finally sleep a full night without visions of checkerboards and  plaids dancing through my head. Right. Like that's ever gonna happen. Now it's back to visions of triangles. Lots and lots of colorful triangles. Up next. But probably not until after New Year's.

Until then, rest up, eat yummy stuff and take lots of pictures of those special smiles in your house.

Sweetest dreams!