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.