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gift wrapping.

5 May

Navy + White. Lace. Monograms.

I love to doodle and experiment with patterns. Even the most simple line and dots can mesh to create a beautiful design. I like the simplicity of the black ink with navy cardstock and delicate lace.

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the good stuff.

29 Sep

cookies are made of butter and love.

sheets: birthday banners

22 Sep

I love transforming the seemingly ordinary into something wildly special. Take a twin bed sheet for instance: with a little acrylic paint and the grandeur stroke of a paint brush, this stretch of cotton boasts a message far more alluring than, “it’s time to make your bed”. Even more enticing is the familiar nod towards tradition. I fell into one such tradition 4 years ago and have steadily been increasing the creativity behind these public displays of birthday well-wishing. Each year hosts the opportunity to hang these colorful bed sheets from the fence or bridge surrounding a neighborhood middle and high school, where two very lively and incredibly special girls who’ve stolen my heart attend school. Shockingly (not really), my “dream-big” idea for each sign steadily increases every year- as does the amount of time it takes to complete the aforementioned project.

I have learned, through one almost disastrous occasion, the required set-up one of these ventures:

Take a step back to May 14, 2008 with me… a night my mother would probably love to forget.

Art studio: the clean, beige carpet in the upstairs of my parents’ house.

Canvas: you might think it was the sheet, however you and my parents would be wrong.

Masterpiece: Many of my projects come down to the last-minute (credit this to my best-work-happens-under-pressure mantra), in this case I knew I had to have the sheet painted by the next morning but my week had been filled with packing and preparing for a 14 hour drive to Rhode Island. Anticipation for my summer in New England crowded out all reason and practicality- leaving only the midnight hour with which to complete said birthday sign before waking up around 6 am to devotingly drape the bridge. After multiple hours and lamp-lit design inspirations, I finally crossed the end-product threshold. Eyes heavy and brushes cleaned, I innocently peeked under the sheet- however, to my confusion and dismay the sheet wasn’t exactly separating from the carpet. Slowly and a little against my better judgment or will, I continued to pluck the sheet away from the floor to reveal an exact replica of the bed sheet design on my parents’ upstairs floor. I could pretty much reason on my own that my parents had no interest in outfitting their bonus room with the adolescent message “Happy 8th Birthday Ally”. Maybe I cried a little (or a lot) or maybe I considered running away (yes at the age of 21) to avoid my parents’ backlash after waking up in the early morning hours to find a custom pink and yellow motif covering the bonus room. Soapy bucket and scrub brush in hand, I set out to wearily wash away all evidence of my careless, yet entirely innocent charade. 2 hours and a handful of blisters later I had successfully rid the carpet of any and all evidence alluding to the incident at hand, shamelessly hoping that my parents’ older eyes wouldn’t notice the slightly less-beige carpet. Let’s be honest- I told my mom the next morning all about the previous night’s antics, she expressed her curiosity as to the damp state of the floor. Not to worry- we had 14 hours to talk it over. So problem and future precautions exhausted, I arrived in Rhode Island and quite possibly confirmed those Northerners’ suspicions about Tennesseans disregarding the use of shoes and attributing my blisters to roping the cattle or tobacco farming.

“leapfrog” for royal icing sugar cookies

15 Jul

For some reason I have this ambition to recreate most anything I see, I’m all about trial and error. It can easily be described as a blessing and a curse- I learn way more about the processes of creating and design and truly appreciate the craftmanship of my inspirations… but occasionally my visionary pursuits lead to late nights and frustrations. If you had asked me whether or not my execution was going to be possible of one such attempt at 1:00am last night I may have given you a different answer, or shooed you out of my kitchen until I cleared the countertops (and floor) of any and all evidence alluding to the contrary.

Recently I’ve been interning at Leapfrog: a boutique public relations and marketing firm specializing in “lifestyle” related businesses – from specialty food products, dining and fashion to real estate and design. With ideas and pitches readily in my ear and on my mind, I set out to create my own “Leapfrogs” in an attempt to prompt the flowing of additional creative juices.

Goal: Hand pipe frogs with royal icing onto sugar cookies.

Scene A: A light dusting of powered sugar covers the kitchen countertops as it’s mixing (hands free might I add- thanks to the beauty that is a KitchenAid mixer) with egg whites and lemon juice until falling ribbons of royal icing are incorporated back into the bowl after only 5 seconds. Heaps of cooling sugar cookies rest upon wire racks, waiting to discover just how the piping and flooding of royal icing works.

Scene B: Royal icing floods way beyond the intended area of confinement, slowly dripping through the holes of the wire racks onto the kitchen counter where it quickly hardens into sugary mounds. Little “leapfrogs” hop to life as their bodies and tiny toes are carefully piped onto rounds of soft dough. Pots and pans, sticky spoons and spatulas, and open food coloring containers litter the countertops from wall to refrigerator- boasting the love and artisanal persistance devoted to the quite cheery and sugary goodness of these “Leapfrog” cookies…

 Sugar Cookies:

3 cups all purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated white sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cap-full lemon extract*

1 cap-full orange extract*

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, lemon, and orange extracts and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough.

Refrigerate for about one hour or until the dough is firm enough to roll.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

* Adding these extracts enhances a basic sugar cookie recipe with a slightly unexpected tinge of citrus, my mom truly does know best.

(recipe adapted from Joy of Baking)

Royal Icing

2 large egg whites

2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 cups powdered sugar

Combine egg whites and lemon juice in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until incorporated. Add powdered sugar and beat on low until smooth (test the consistency by drizzling icing in the same mixing bowl- it should take the drizzle approximately 5 seconds to incorporate).

Use this thicker consistency to pipe the edges of your cookies and designs. Then thin the icing with small amounts of water until it reaches the consistency you want to “flood” the interior areas of your cookies.

Store icing in an airtight container as it does harden quickly.

If you are interested in ordering cookies with your company’s logo or personal design, pleace contact me at itsalwayssweeter@gmail.com for pricing information.

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