Snow Day Sugar Cookies

If there’s one thing to know about me it’s that I love learning. I’m a visual learner so, in the age of the Internet, YouTube has become my best friend. It’s amazing, really, how many different kinds of things you can learn on YouTube these days. There are so many passionate people out there making videos about things they care about! Here are some actual snippets of my YouTube search history:

  • “How to add a color knitting”
  • “How to use the Uber app”
  • “How to braid a weeping fig”
  • “How to cut a tree slab”
  • “Replant phalaenopsis orchid”
  • “Royal icing flood consistency”

This last one led me down my latest rabbit hole. Anne’s mom shared the most delicious sugar cookie recipe from her friend a few years ago, and Anne and I like to experiment with making different shaped cookies and decorations. I found one YouTube channel by Julia M. Usher, a well-regarded baker with a specialty in making cookies, that offered a wealth of knowledge on the subject. Since Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, I thought I’d give royal icing a try with these sugar cookie hearts.

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First things first: Make Laura Kutill’s sugar cookies! I hope I meet her someday to thank her in person for this incredible recipe.

Laura Kutill's Delicious Sugar Cookies

Prep time: 15 minutes | Bake time: 10 minutes per batch | Yields: 6-7 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until light. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Add half of the dry ingredients and incorporate. Add remaining.

Cut dough into thirds and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2+ hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll the dough 3/16″ thick on a floured surface. Cut out the cookies and place on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes until the edges begin to turn a light golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

From Scissors & Sage

Seven Steps to Flawless Rolled Cookies (via Julia M. Usher)

  1. Work with cold dough.
  2. Lightly flour work surface.
  3. Use a good, heavy rolling pin.
  4. Rotate dough while rolling.
  5. Roll dough relatively thin, 3/16″.
  6. Transfer cutouts with an offset spatula.
  7. Rotate for even browning.

Julia also shared her recipe for royal icing, as well as how to change the consistency for outlining, top-coating, and flooding cookies. Below are her clues to making excellent icing.

Royal Icing & Consistency Alterations (via Julia M. Usher)

Icing “Glue”

  • 2 lbs powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 5 large egg whites

Using the beater attachment, combine powdered sugar and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in egg whites and mix at low speed. Scrape down sides before increasing to high speed for 1-2 minutes. Icing will go from a gray to white in color due to increased air circulation in icing.

If desired, flavor the icing (i.e. incorporate 1 tsp of vanilla or lemon extract).

Makes 4 cups icing, which is enough to cover several dozen cookies.

Note: Color the icing once the “glue” is distributed into smaller bowls.

Outlining Consistency

For 1 cup of “glue,” add 1/2 to 3/4 tsp water. Mix gently. The icing should fall in globs off of the spoon.

Top Coating Consistency

For 1 cup of “glue,” add 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 tsps water. Mix gently. The icing should flow slowly off of the spoon and create tracks in the icing that disappear after 15 seconds.

Note: Use this icing for covering cookies without outlining first.

Flooding Consistency

For 1 cup of “glue,” add 2 to 3 tsps water. Mix very gently so as not to create air bubbles. Tap down bowl on counter to help. The icing should run off the spoon a bit faster than top coat, and tracks in icing should disappear in 10 seconds.

Note: If icing is too watered down, sift powdered sugar into the mixture.

From Scissors & Sage

All in all, I’m really glad that I tried making royal icing. It certainly took a long time to get through all 90 cookies I made, but the end result was worth it. Now I get to share my cookies with friends and family this weekend!

PS) I decided to try making Julia’s parchment pastry cones rather than use the canvas pastry bag we have. She walks you through the steps to make these simple bags, and I have to say it was very worth it. You get to just throw the bags away when you’re done rather than clean out the canvas.

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Embroidered Valentine’s Card Crafting

Last weekend, Anne and I set up shop during the Super Bowl to make a whole bunch of valentines. Granted we like the experience of the Super Bowl (the food is clearly the best part), it’s the last thing either of us knows anything about. So we got out some of our crafting materials, splayed them out over our dining table, and had a blast together!

This embroidered valentine is actually one I made the following day. I knew I wanted to photograph it, and nighttime lighting wouldn’t do. Let me say this: I have never embroidered before. I would consider this DIY to be in the “easy” category, and so should you! This is a great way to dip a toe in if you’ve been thinking about trying embroidery. The supplies needed are few, so let’s go ahead and get started!

Materials:

  • Thick paper
  • Pencil
  • Sewing needle
  • White embroidery thread (about 18 inches)
  • Red embroidery thread (about 24 inches)
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie for writing your message

Step 1: Turn over the paper, and with a pencil mark three little Xs in each corner of the card. This simple border will ensure first-time embroidery success!

Step 2: Thread the sewing needle with white embroidery thread. Tie one small knot right near the end of the thread.

Step 3: Insert the sewing needle into the backside of the paper at one corner of an X. Pull thread all the way through until you reach the knot. Re-insert the needle into the frontside of the paper at the opposite corner of that X. From the back, sew into a third corner of the X. Finally, push the needle through the fourth and final corner of the X. Make sure the thread is taut but not too taut, as this could rip the paper. Tie another small knot on the back of the paper. Cut thread.

 

Step 4: Tie a new knot at the end of the white thread. Continue onto the next white X and repeat step 3. (My Xs got better as I continued to make them. You’ll have the art perfected by the time you finish all twelve!)

Step 5: When you have finished making the white Xs, switch to the red thread and continue until all of the Xs have been sewn. Note that I chose to take a shortcut here. Instead of making individual thread cuts for each red X, I made only one thread cut for each corner of the paper. Meaning, I sewed two red Xs together in each corner. By combining two Xs together, I saved myself both time and fuss.

Step 6: Write your message! No matter who it’s for, the recipient is going to love this handmade card. Mine is more of a postcard-style, but you could easily add some fun paper to the other side to cover the back end of the stitches. I personally like the rustic, homemade feel of it!

Some other notes:

  • My particular card isn’t going in the mail. If yours is, you can easily make your own matching envelope using this technique.
  • The paper I used was a perfect thickness. Anne actually made this paper a few years ago! I found that the closer I got to the edge of the paper, the more I needed to support it with my hands. That way, I could ensure the paper didn’t rip or tear.
  • Have fun with it! Since you’re making the same X shape over and over again, you will soon get good and move pretty quickly. This card took me about 30 minutes.

Share your own Valentine’s cards using #scissorsandsage. I may feature some of your projects on Instagram! And just because succulents photograph so well…

Floral Arranging 101 With: Elaine Burns

One of my New Year’s resolutions for Scissors & Sage is to invite other people to guest post throughout the year. I so enjoy getting to learn from crafters and bakers and the like, and thought that this would be a nice way to collaborate. The first guest blog post this year is from my friend Elaine.

Elaine and I went to college together. Have you ever had the experience of knowing someone through a friend, but not really knowing them, only to find out later that you two have so many similar interests? That’s me and Elaine. I hope to craft with her in real life someday. She lives in Brooklyn, works for J.Crew, and is an overall lover of crafting. She knits, crochets, bakes, arranges flowers, and embroiders, among other nifty talents. Today she is here to teach us how to make our very own floral arrangements! I can’t wait to give this a try.

From Elaine: It’s the dead of winter and you’re counting down the days until spring — only three more months until warmth! While it may be desolate outside, a perfect (and foolproof) way to bring the promise of springy days ahead into your or a friend’s home is with a unique flower arrangement. You really can’t go wrong with some added pops of color.

Selecting Flowers

For this arrangement, I spent about $50 at my local grocery store and purchased six bouquets of flowers. When selecting, I aim to assort a variety of textures and shapes: long and skinny (like snap dragons) and round and dome-like (like dahlias).  Next, I focus on a color palette.

In addition to selecting the focus-flowers for an arrangement, I am also sure to select some foliage flowers or plants to add needed balance. I used hypericum berries, as well as leaves from carnation stems, in this arrangement.

Preparation

Once you have the flowers back at home, immediately take them out of the cellophane/paper wrapping, cut the stems at an angle (do not trim the stems at this point), and stick the flowers in a bucket of water. Grab a pair of scissors or a knife — it’s now time to process the stems.

When you bring home a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store or farmer’s market, they are typically unprocessed, meaning they still have all of their leaves, nubs, and thorns. Use your hands or a knife/scissors to clean these leaves from the stems. This will make it easier (and less messy) to assemble your arrangement.

 

Assembling the Bouquet

When I make a vase arrangement, I find it easiest to make a traditional bouquet as my skelton and then add embellishments from there.

To start a bouquet, take two flowers and cross them in an “x” shape. Then, rotate both flowers clockwise. The flower that was on top (in this case, the orange carnation) will now be behind the second flower (here, the light purple dahlia). Repeat again with a third flower: add to the “x”, then rotate clockwise. This rotation is important because it creates the spiral shape of a traditional bouquet.

 

 

Keep adding flowers; the more the better! With the first ten or so flowers you add, the spiral bouquet shape won’t be immediately apparent. But, the more you add, the more pronounced the shape will become.

Once you have added all of the flowers to your bouquet, you can trim the stems (cut at an angle) to fit into your vase of choice. I typically go for mason jars. The one I used here is a vintage find!

From here, it’s a matter of finessing your arrangement. Aside from processing the stems, I usually spend the most time on this step. Some flowers probably slipped below others while you were assembling the bouquet, so they will need to be pulled up. If you notice that one side of the bouquet is very heavy in one color, you may need to remove some stems and place them elsewhere.  If that is the case, just be sure to continue following the twisted shape of the bouquet. You really can’t go wrong!

Bonus Bud Vase

When processing and arranging a large display, you will inevitably accumulate a collection of smaller buds, extra foliage, or a flower or two that didn’t make it into my final arrangement. Bonus!!

These smaller flowers can then be used to filled smaller bud vases (of which I now have a growing collection) and used to pepper the rest of your home with some added color and texture. I usually make a loose bouquet shape before sticking these into a vase.

So, happy winter, all! Here’s hoping your home feels a little bit brighter and warmer with the addition of a new floral arrangement.

Flowers Used

Dahlias, Carnations, Snapdragons, Daisies, Hypericum Berry

All Photos taken by Elaine Burns

Picking Favorites On Etsy

It’s officially Valentine’s season, and I couldn’t be more excited.  It’s been one of my favorite holidays ever since I was little.  You may see a nod to Valentine’s Day in my posts for the next few weeks, but I’ll try not to be too overbearing.  Try.

This week’s Picking Favorites looks a bit different from previous installments.  No collage images, for one.  And second, all of my picked favorites hail from Etsy.  With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I thought it might be nice to offer some items that have gifting potential.  The items in this post don’t have to be given, though, as you can just read this as a few things that have been inspiring me lately!

I’ve broken down these ten items into three categories.  All photos were taken by the original artists, and links to all of their Etsy shops are below.

For the Homemaker

Where to begin with Cotton & Flax…  I’ve been following Erin’s Instagram feed for a while now, and find her design and aesthetic to be so beautiful.  These handmade printed napkins would make a great gift for a loved one or for a dinner party host.  (Click here to see her website, too.)

Anne and I have recently been interested in experimenting with more cocktail-making at home.  Her parents gave her two great copper mugs for Christmas this year, and they’ve settled in nicely on our bar cart (tour coming soon!).  The copper mugs above are from Etsy shop Custom Copper Mugs.  I can almost feel summer now, and yet we’ve found they are equally tasty in winter!

This walnut cutting board by Robert at Foodiebords is exquisite.  It would pair nicely with cheese knives or a pretty dish towel.  There are few greater gifts than a well-crafted cutting board, as it’s both versatile and long-lasting.

Pretty As A Print is near and dear to me.  My friend and fellow creative arts therapist Julia runs this Etsy shop, and it’s filled with wonderful art.  The print above is of the Philly skyline, and it brings me joy!

For the Leaf Lover

The ceramic pieces in Avesha Michael‘s Etsy shop are incredible!  This mini vase, with its matte cream color and brown speckled glaze, is definitely my favorite.  There is so much texture within its three-inch height!

Red Bird Ink has a lovely Etsy shop filled with letterpress paper goods and custom printed items.  These letterpress paper coasters each have a different green plant on them.  The coaster on top here is of a maidenhair fern, one of the cutest plants around town.  While this set is mix-and-match greenery, other sets can be of all one plant or design.

Speaking of plants, the Sensitive Plant is uh-mazing.  It has a genetic mutation that causes the plant to close if touched, moved, or shaken.  It also closes at night.  I saw this plant when I was in Jamaica nearly four years ago, and didn’t know what it was called or if I’d ever see it again.  Now I might just have to buy this kit from JPants4Sale.  You will NOT stop touching it!  (See it in action on YouTube.)

For the Accessorizer

These waxed canvas travel bags from Lifetime Travel Co. are delicious.  I’m not sure I could ever choose just one color.  They could be used for toiletries, jewelry, makeup, or pretty much anything else when you’re on the move.  All of the items in their Etsy shop are incredible, though — this just skims the surface!

I’m a sucker for jewelry.  Anyone who knows me well knows that.  But when it comes to earrings, I typically want something that I can wear with 99.99% of my wardrobe.  These studs from Lunai Jewelry look like they’d do just the trick.  I love that the jewelry on her Etsy shop has a simple, very functional design and feel.

Last but not least, this infinity plaid scarf from Freckle Face Monday would look good on just about anyone.  Angie and Kay’s shop is chock-full of seriously good-looking plaid scarves.  They’ve got one for practically every skin tone and hair color.  Go check them out!

And there you have it!  Do you have a favorite item from the selection above?  Are you thinking about potential Valentine’s Day gifts, either for yourself (let’s be real) or someone else?

PS) Don’t forget to enter into the Sticky9 GIVEAWAY by this Friday!!!

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Last month, Scissors & Sage hosted its very first comment contest.  I am happy to announce that the winner of this Valentine’s themed mystery treat was Theresa of TheresaBuoy!  This experience gave me an opportunity to meet a new blog friend across the country, and to expand my blogging horizons (literally).  Thank you to all who participated.  I look forward to future contests on this blog!

The mystery treat I baked for Theresa was a batch of lemon ricotta cookies.  Perhaps you have never heard of these – I hadn’t until about a month ago.  I was in Isgro Pasticceria with my family when I saw these little fellows in the display case.  Now, I am Italian.  Like Brooklyn Italian.  But I had never heard of lemon ricotta cookies!  I was embarrassed.  I was confused.  I knew I had to try and make these myself, so my uncle helped me track down Giada De Laurentiis’s well-regarded recipe.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Yields: 52 cookies

Cookies:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • Sprinkles (optional)

Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Preheat oven to 375 °F.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar using an electric mixer until fluffy (3-4 minutes).  Add the eggs and beat until fully incorporated.  Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Beat to combine.  Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop 1 tbs of batter per cookie.  Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly golden brown along the edges.  Remove from oven.  Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and let stand for 20 minutes.

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl.  Stir until smooth.  Spoon the glaze onto each cooled cookie.  Add sprinkles if desired.  Let the glaze harden for 2+ hours.  Package the cookies for up to two weeks.

From Scissors & Sage

I packaged these cookies up for Theresa in a decorative paper loaf pan.  These cookies are the perfect springtime cookie.  They are light and citrusy, and can be enjoyed in combination with this warming weather!