CookieCon Through My Eyes and Heart

Date November 12, 2012

I spent last weekend in Salt Lake City with more than 200 seriously funny, ridiculously creative, and genuinely amazing women at the first-ever but certainly not the last if we have any collective say about it Cookie Con! I’m going to give you a minute to process what I’m telling you. Ponder this if you will. 200 women who get dewy-eyed over a new shape in plaque cookie cutters. 200 women who at least once a week leave their house sporting royal icing highlights in their hair. 200 women who at any given moment have their hands stained with an entire color palette. 200 women who experience profound compassion at the pronouncement, “And then I came downstairs in the morning only to discover that the dots all had craters and the super red had bled into the leaf green.” 200 women who would choose a refurbished kopykake projector over a new living room recliner without so much as missing a heartbeat. 200 women who have the only children in the world to ever whine, “Please Mommy! No more cookies! I want peas and carrots!”

For three days these very same 200 plus women gathered under one roof with piping bags and boo-boo sticks to listen, watch, learn, practice, talk, laugh, eat, barely sleep, and create. The events and schedule for the weekend are available here.

I could devote a half dozen posts to sharing all I loved about and learned from my time at Cookie Con but since my cookie decorating dance card is full for the week I’m going to give a few personal impressions I packed up and brought home with me….along with the 30 plus cookie cutters that somehow managed to find their way into my suitcase. I have no idea how they got in there, at least that’s the story I’m telling my spouse.

(Indulging in my cookie cutter addiction at a nearby shop with four of my dear friends and co-addicts not in recovery, Lorraine from Lorraine’s Cookies, Casey from Casey’s Confections, Lindsey from Tickled Pink Cookie Bouquet, and Nicole from Life’s a Batch)

This is Mike and Karen Summers. Mike is on the left . . . in case you weren’t sure.

Mike and Karen are the founders of Karen’s Cookies, and the two super-humans who made this weekend happen. They dreamed it, designed it, organized it, and in the end they pulled it off beautifully, and when they wake up in 3 weeks from their Cookie Con coma I plan on telling them so.

And the presenters, that pantheon of cookie greatness who when walking on earth go by the mortal names of Callye, Ali, Elizabeth, Glory, Pam, MaryAnn, Lisa, and Julia were spectacular. The weekend was built around workshops led by these phenomenal cookie decorators, all of whom without exception have been an inspiration to me in one way or another over the past two years and considering that they have a combined fan and follower base of approximately 3.25 katrillion it appears I’m not the only one they’ve inspired.

In the off chance you weren’t among the 200 Cookie Con elect, let me tell you a little something about these eight women beyond their insane level of talent and creativity. They are, each and every one, living breathing sweethearts. They are kind, warm, caring, and good-hearted. In other words, they are the real deal so if you aren’t following their blogs already do yourself a favor and start following them now. Even if you don’t make cookies, follow them if for no other reason than they’re really nice and who doesn’t need a little more nice in their day? Oh, and guess which one in the photo has a special cookie in the oven. If you need me to give you a clue it’s time to make an appointment with your optometrist.

And all the awesomeness of Mike and Karen and the presenters was only equaled by . . . well . . . every single one of the attendees. And the talent was out of the park and I offer up as proof the following:

The Sugar Show

We were given the opportunity to bring decorated cookies to enter in one of a few selected categories and here are just a few of the cookies that were on display. I regret I didn’t photograph every cookie there because my ego would have exploded if I could take credit for so much as one of any of the cookies that was entered and since I didn’t connect each cookie with the cookie decorator if you see your cookie below please be sure to mention which one is yours in the comment section along with including a link to your Facebook page or blog.

And while I’m indulging you in cookie porn let me highlight this adorable three-dimensional entry by Christy from The Cranberry Cookie Shop who uses her cookie talent to raise financial support for a non-profit organization in her area that works to feed, clothe, house and educate at-risk men, women, and children. There’s more compassion in the cookie world than there is sugar.

And right on the heels of all that crazy awesome talent I bring you . . .

The Mystery Shape

On Sunday morning we were all given blank cookies to decorate including this bizarre nondescript mystery shape. 200 cookie decorators. 1 mystery shape. Intimidated, party of one, your table is waiting.

Stop it! Get a hold of yourself girl, you can do this,” I thought to myself, and so I grabbed up my mystery cookie and hunkered down at a table with icing bags and candy bling at the ready and I waited. I waited for that great idea, that moment of inspiration, that lightning bolt of creativity.

But after all my head-scratching to try and uncover the cookie-worthy design within it’s shape the only thing I ever saw in that pesky little puddle of dough was something that resembled an inflamed internal organ and at least to this point in my cookie career no one has ever inquired about an irritated bowel cookie tray. Having met my match in a cookie, I grabbed up my camera and wandered the room in hopes of capturing a few other defeated head-scratchers in digital form.

Instead what I found were 200 women decorating their mystery shape like an angel had whispered a design in their ear. It was inspiring to see even if I did want to snap their cookies in half when they weren’t looking. And yes, that’s just how envious and petty I am. So here are some examples of the mystery shape cookies that were decorated on the fly. Sigh.

I know! Crazy, right?!

So it’s been proven. When you put a room full of cookie decorators together with a bin of blank cookies and some piping bags you’re going to some really clever cookie designs. And you’re going to get one more thing too.

A great big sticky rainbow-colored mess!

Among this brightly-colored mess lay the stuff of every cookie decorator’s nightmares. . .

. . .dozens upon dozens of royal icing coated piping tips! But then out of the chaos arose two amazing cookie warriors who strong in might and courageous in spirit declared “Yes, we will clean them all until they sparkle but all we ask is this one thing . . . a set of plastic couplers for each of us signed by the cookie mavens.”

So they asked and so it was done. Amen y amen.

You should have heard the sighs of longing when these two tip scrubbers were presented with their regal couplers. Too funny. Unless you’re a cookie decorator which means you’re reading this through misty-eyed tears.

So yes, it was an incredible weekend filled with talent, creativity, inspiration, and learning but most of all it was a golden opportunity to meet some amazing women who I’m honored to call my friends. Truly honored.

Whether it’s a circle of girls who’ve become my dearest friends over the past year . . .

. . .or a cookie blogger who’ve shared generously of her time and talent to inspire others just like me . . .


As a side note, while I knew Pam and I shared a common love for glaze little did I know we also shared the same natural highlights in our hair.
Imagine that.

. . . and then there are those wonderful women who I only knew in the online cookie world but who in one short weekend I came to love, not simply for their talent but for the quality of people they are.

As you probably imagine there was a whole lot of laughter happening in Salt Lake City the weekend it was invaded by more than 200 cookie-decorating women. And when I say laughter I mean cross your legs and tighten your bladder laughter.

But here’s the full story and the truth of it all for me. Along with the laughter there were more than a few tears falling in my room at the end of each day because never for a moment did it escape my awareness that were it not for ALS and my brother’s death I would never have been there. I would never have met and grown to love so many dear friends like Angela, Callye, Nicole, and Elizabeth. I wouldn’t have come to know and admire others like Michelle who bakes so beautifully to raise money for a children’s hospice in the U.K. and Christy who supports an outreach for at-risk men, women, and children with every cookie she decorates that I mentioned earlier in this post. The friendships I cherish today, the calling that gives my life purpose, both of these would be missing from my life had ALS not done it’s nasty business in my family. With every new gift that comes to me as a result of Sweet Hope Cookies I never forget what started this whole journey for me.

Life is some glorious roller coaster ride, don’t you think. Joy comes from sorrow, purpose gets formed in pain, the death of a loved one opens the heart to holding and giving more love. The Psalmist knew something when he wrote”…weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Even though the night seems sometimes excruciatingly long the morning, when it comes is always sweet.

Last weekend in Salt Lake City, surrounded by so many wonderful new friends was one awesome bright morning for which I am deeply grateful.

Thus concludes today’s installment of “Chicken Soup for the Cookie-Shaped Soul.” Now go. Eat a cookie. Or two.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed! Also, now that I have your attention, I invite you to learn more about ALS and The ALS Association, and to make a donation to help us defeat ALS. Together we will defeat it!

48 Responses to “CookieCon Through My Eyes and Heart”

  1. Reba said:

    I loved this recap of CookieCon! I can only start saving my pennies, dimes and nickels for the next one! thanks for being an inspiration for us as well!

  2. Georganne said:

    I know I've said this a hundred-jillion times… but I'm SO SAD I didn't get to go!! Everyone has the most wonderful things to say and it sounds like it really was all everyone hoped it would be and more. It's too bad no one thought to tape every single second of the weekend. I'd buy the film. :)

  3. Kate said:

    I was at Cookiecon and I had an amazing time. You describe it beautifully. I not only had a great time, but I learned so much from the presenters and the other women attending. Today I played with stencils and stamps, which Julia taught me how to do. If you truly love cookie cutters you should check out the national cookie cutter collectors club. That same wonderful and fun time at cookiecon is very similar to what I experienced at the national cookie cutter collectors club convention.

  4. Michelle said:

    Priceless …what a great round up! You've captured the spirit of the weekend beautifully!

  5. Diana said:

    Now I feel so behind!! I have to look for all these wonderful ladies now so their beauty can inspire me too!!! I will have lots of time now with my foot in a splint!! Cookies here I come!!! :-D

  6. Dotty said:

    Anita, that was beautiful AND hilarious. Well done! I was so happy to get to meet you. You were just as much a super star at CC as the instructors!

  7. Donna said:

    Love seeing faces of the names I have followed for a few years! The amount of talent in that room was oozing over when you look at the "mystery cookie" creations. Such vision, creativity, and skill! Thank you for sharing your experience with those of us who did not attend.

  8. The Bearfoot Baker said:

    I LOVE this post! I am so happy I got to meet you and hang out a little! You totally captured the love we all had for each other at Cookie Con! I can't wait until the next one and hope to see you there!

    PS-I want you to cook something for me! Callye told me how amazing your food is ;)

  9. Karen @ Trilogy Edib said:

    Truly awesome post. I'm sorry we didn't get to chat at CookieCon. Thank you for sharing your experience and your inspiration and above all your quirkiness! That's the best thing about you :)

  10. The Partiologist said:

    What a wonderful post of our weekend! Wish I could have spent more time with the amazing lady behind the camera! :)

  11. Paula said:

    I love your re-cap of Cookie Con. What great photos! Nothing but pride and praise coming from all the attendee's re-caps that I've been reading. How wonderful for Karen and Mike that all their hard word resulted in such a heart-warming experience for all those able to attend.

  12. Donna B. said:

    What a way to begin a Monday…..Entertainment, laughter, blessings and tears. Anita, you've made the weekend come alive for those of us who could not be there….it's not just about what you learned in cookie-ing….but the friendships formed that will endure! Blessings on you, friend. Yes, there is definitely sunshine after the rain……..

    Blessings, Donna B.

  13. Julia M Usher said:

    Wonderful recap!

  14. Laurie said:

    Anita!!! Is it any wonder we all love you?? I love this recap! You completely captured the essence of the weekend!! And it was such a pleasure to meet you. I, too, am thankful for Randy – without him we wouldn't have had you with us this weekend and I am proudly wearing my ALS bracelet! :)

  15. Christine Shen - Sug said:

    Anita, you have brought me to tears this morning! Your Cookie Con recap was not only super funny, but also so heartfelt and filled with love!!! I'm so happy I got to meet you and look forward to seeing you at future CC events! :)

    Christine – Sugar Cravings

  16. amy said:

    So glad this community now has a cookie-camp. Loove this re-cap. The lace cookie entry is my favorite!! And Pam totally looks like Dana, if you ask me.

  17. Kimberly (Sweet Crea said:

    Loved every word Anita!!!! I know I missed out on so much but I am so happy for every single one of you who got to be a part of Cookie Con!!!

  18. TriciaZ said:

    Beautiful words, Anita! It was wonderful meeting you at CookieCon!

  19. DeeAnn Cadonau said:

    Enjoyed reading about your cookie trip!

    As soon as you brought up Randy I end up in a puddle!

    Love You sister in law!

  20. Whisked Away Cookies said:

    Oh, I loved reading this! You did a wonderful job recapping the great time that we all had! And I love that pic of you, Lisa and I! I have one of you peeking over our shoulders that I have to get up at some point. It really makes me smile! It really was great to get to meet you, Anita. I just think that you are wonderful in so many different ways and it was such a pleasure to get to meet the person behind those amazing cookies! Thanks again for this great recap!

  21. Lisa K said:

    Hey Anita – I was a Spring Flinger &, unfortunately, not able to attend CookieCon. Thanks to this post, it helped me relive all the fun again! So glad it was a huge success! Aren't cookie decorators the best?!

  22. Andrea said:

    BEAUTIFUL. The photos along with the recap is priceless. Thanks for sharing. I'm so thankful I was there to witness & share this wonderful event. Ahhh until next time…..

  23. Anne@Have a Cookie! said:

    What a wonderful recap of an even more wonderful weekend in SLC! I am so glad I was there too!

  24. Glory/ Glorious Trea said:

    What a beautiful and sweet post!! What a special weekend we all had, didn't we? So great to meet you!

  25. anita said:

    Dotty, what I loved about Cookie Con was that EVERYONE was a super star! I loved how a whole table of women including Maryann (Cookie Artisan) learned a new way of piping writing on cookies by watching Stephanie from the U.K. It was a totally spontaneous and wonderful teaching session!

  26. anita said:

    Donna, isn't it fun to attach faces to names? I love that too!

  27. anita said:

    I made hand-rolled pasta and chicken cacciatore this weekend. Where were you?!?!? ANYTIME you're in town, dinner at our house. Count on it!

  28. anita said:

    Karen, I wish we could have chatted too since I'm a total fan of yours! Lunch next time? :)

  29. anita said:

    At least I got to be up close and personal when you won the half-as-good prize!! Be safe and please, don't stop your fall with your hands!!!

  30. anita said:

    Paula, as I said Mike and Karen did the most phenomenal job! Everything ran so smooth and was so beautifully prepared you would have thought it was Cookie Con 12 instead of the first one!

  31. anita said:

    You're a sweetheart Donna. Just have to say it again :)

  32. anita said:

    Thanks Julia! What a pleasure to meet you and have a chance to see you work your magic with cookies!

  33. anita said:

    Laurie, thanks for wearing the bracelet! That makes me smile…just be careful…those letters can hold a lot of dough! And big love right back at you Girl!

  34. anita said:

    Christine, I loved the chance to meet you too! I've been following your cookie art for a long time and the princess puppies….aDORable! I'm making a whole lot of pumpkin spice this week and there's always extra minis around should a certain someone (YOU!) care to send me their mailing address. Just saying Christine!

  35. anita said:

    Amy, it was a total blast! As far as Pam and Dana looking alike, I suppose they do…..in that they both have TWO eyes and a nose! Pam is lovely inside and out like Dana but I sure don't see the resemblance. I'm guessing you had "lunch" at Porque No? before you saw the photo???

  36. anita said:

    Next time Kim!!!

  37. anita said:

    Et tu Tricia :)

  38. anita said:

    DeeAnn, that guy's name wipes me out about every time it crosses my mind too. Seems like yesterday and seems like forever ago, huh? Love you…see you real soon! And don't forget the mint on the pillow :)

  39. anita said:

    Best. Cookie. Weekend. Ever. Glory! And so fun to meet you too!

  40. anita said:

    Hey Anne! I'm already looking forward to Cookie Con 2!

  41. CookieCon Wrap Up | - The Baked Equation - Homemade Cookies said:

    [...] Sweet Hope Cookies: CookieCon Through My Eyes and Heart [...]

  42. Melissa {thebakedequ said:

    Anita! I love this heartfelt post, I was not expecting to tear up when I read it either, but I did. It's amazing the things in life that bring people together. Thank you for sharing your lens into the view at cookiecon

  43. Heather S. said:

    Anita you captured so much of the spirit of CookieCon in this post. It was amazing and I'm so glad that I got to meet and have some grape flavored fun with you :) When I have a few minutes to type (and not from my phone) I need to send you a note to tell you about the fantastic conversation that resulted when my daughter asked me about my red bracelet.

    Thank you for the beautiful post & awesome photos.

  44. Michele said:

    Crying from laughter, and the tremendous gratitude I have for being a part of this wonderful cookie community. I didn't get to go to Cookie Con this year, but your recap made me feel like I was there. You are so funny Anita and have such a talent for writing! Thanks for letting us live vicariously through your blog post! :)

  45. Nancy Paine said:

    Anita, This is my favorite recap of Cookie Con, OMG! You are hilarious, girl! And isn't being over 50 great? In most ways, at least! Wish I would have gotten to know you at Cookie Con! Your writing is hilarious, love it! Talent, oh, yes! My cookie was the charm bracelet one, #42, in your pictures. I also did a 3-D snowflake and one with 3 little trick-or-treaters. And the snowlady in the mystery shapes you pictured. SUPER FUN, cannot wait to go back to CC!

  46. Nancy Paine said:

    Oops, you asked what my site is, and it's /a>. But my ornaments mostly sell at this time of the year, so my shop is not as nice as usual, as they are going. But come visit! My cookies (that I sell) are non-edible. And on Flickr, I am Snowflakelady. Have a fabulous day, and Christmas!

  47. anita said:

    Nancy, thank you for stepping up and owning your cookies! I'm awed by all the cookies you brought, both in their design and that you brought so crazy many! While you were decorating cookies for the sugar show it seems I was busy sorting through what teeshirts to bring with me. And your ornaments are Etsy are wonderful!

  48. Nancy Paine said:

    Anita, Thank you! You made that amazing "Giving Apron", oh, my gosh, I loved that! You are so fun! Fabulous idea, and so generous! Maybe we can meet up at Cookie Con, or before?! Come on down to AZ! Where are you at?

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