Mon. Dec. 3, 2018: The Infamous Cookie Platters #Upbeatauthors

Monday, December 3, 2018
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

#upbeatauthors — Thriftiness — The Infamous Cookie Platters

christmas-cookies-2975570_1920

Some people look at thriftiness as being cheap, or not valuing the person on the receiving end of that thrift. Far too many people believe that the value of a relationship can be measured by the financial value of gifts exchanged.

I disagree. I would rather receive a gift given from the heart with some thought to it of a lesser monetary value, but a greater “heart value” than something expensive.

As a freelancer with a budget, I have to be careful with my holiday budget. Well, with any budget, but the holidays always put a special stress on it.

I’m a big holiday card person. I believe in writing and mailing cards. I don’t do a typed letter that I print out and stuff in; I handwrite notes on each cards. I’ve had years, when I worked on numerous shows in numerous locations, where I wrote and mailed nearly 500 cards; in the last few years, it’s closer to 75.

I love receiving cards, too. Our family tradition is to hang red velveteen ribbons around the doorways and windows in our house. (To be thrifty, I buy the ribbons on sale in bulk at an art supply store when they’re on sale, cut them to fit, take them down and wind them on marked spools for “doors” and “windows” so I can re-use them for years). We then fasten the cards we receive to the ribbons around the doorways. It’s lovely to look up from wherever we sit and have a reminder of friends and loved ones.

But what I’m known for, around the holidays, are my cookie platters. Every season, I bake about 1000 cookies and several dozen small cakes or cupcakes, and put them together in large platters that I deliver to neighbors, clients, the firehouse, the library, the guys at the transfer station, the yoga studio, postal workers, etc., etc.

This is actually a thrifty way to show these individuals that they matter to me (handmade, baked from scratch goodies) while not breaking the bank.

How do I do it?

I’m organized.

I decide, over the summer, which cookies I’ll make. There are either four or five varieties, and they have to be the kind that don’t go bad after three days (although, to be fair, once the platters are delivered, they are devoured pretty quickly).

Thanksgiving weekend, I sit down with the recipes, paper and pen, and make a list. How many platters do I need? It’s usually between 18-24. How many batches of each type of cookie does that need? Instead of doubling or tripling the recipes themselves, I make batches — the quality is better.

I sit down with the recipes and figure out how much of each ingredient I need. I usually start stock piling staples in autumn, and purchase the eggs, milk, butter, etc., as I need it. I start stockpiling parchment paper and wax paper in autumn, too.

I set aside several days, and bake one type of cookie each day, starting with the cookie that keeps best. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a variety of excellent tins in which to store the cookies; they are cleaned and sterilized at the end of each season, and then, again, before I start baking.

Before I start each batch, I check to make sure I have all the ingredients I need. If not, I run out to the store and get them. There were too many years where I ran out of something in the middle of the recipe and had to run out, leaving partial batter in a bowl!

The last thing I make are the small cakes or cupcakes. I make them either the night before delivery, or the day of delivery.

Everything is baked, stored, marked.

Now, I create the assembly line for the platters. I usually prep 3 platters at a time, using the oval Chinet-thickness platters. I put the cakes in the middle, and arrange the different types of cookies around them.

Then, I slide the platter into a large cookie bag (or I use cellophane, the type used for florists and gift baskets). I’m in the process of designing a more eco-friendly type of bag with my own designs on it, but haven’t yet perfected it. I close it with a twist tie, then add a gift tag with a thin ribbon. The gift tag either lists the cookies, or I have a cheat sheet with photos of each type of cookie that I include. I don’t use nuts in any of the cookies I give as gifts, and I make sure to say so. Once the tag is fastened, I use a yard of organza ribbon in either red or green to tie a large, flowing bow, and add a candy cane to the bow.

I plot my route for deliveries. I usually do two or three sets of deliveries. I walk the platters over to the neighbors. My favorite thing to do is to leave it at the door, so they find a treat when they come home; however, I’ve lived here long enough that they start watching for me, so they can invite me in!

I do my deliveries, and I’m done! Time for eggnog, with a good dose of rum in it. Except for the postal carriers who come to the house. We’re a weird little set of streets, and different carriers hit us on different days. So I make small packets, tucked into holiday-themed Chinese-food style containers, and give them out from the Solstice through New Year’s, whenever we have a different one.

I make sure to have enough cookies left over in case we need to put together another platter, or we are invited to a party and bring something, and so we can enjoy some ourselves! In other words, I usually make at least one batch more than I believe I’ll need.

By October, people start asking if I’m doing the cookie platters again this year, and what will be in them. I keep several of the old favorites, like tollhouse and molasses spice, but change up the other types.

By keeping my eyes open for sales on ribbon, platters, paper, etc., all year, and then stockpiling as certain items that hold freshness go on sale, I can create the platters on a budget, and still let the recipients know they are valued.

Published in: on December 3, 2018 at 6:56 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

Thurs. Dec. 14, 2017: First Accumulated Snow of the Season!

Thursday, December 14, 2017
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Snowy and cold

Late getting on today, because we had three inches of snow this morning! Very pretty.

Busy day with a client yesterday. Lots of social media work, promotions, et al. I’m tracking to see what kind of return these promotions get. I’m doing that with the books, too. As an author, I am as much of a small business as anyone else. If the marketing dollars I put out don’t show a TANGIBLE return — meaning book sales — I will put them elsewhere.

Cookie platter deliveries in the morning, before meeting with my client. I was almost out of cupcakes (which I knew would happen, they have to be baked just before they go out). So, in the afternoon, I baked another 3 dozen chocolate chip raspberry cupcakes and frosted them.

A couple of gifts arrived from friends, which is always fun.

Got some writing done in the evening. An editor wants a revision done on a piece — I disagree with it, but I’m going to do it anyway. This is on the difficult gig, from which I hope to extricate myself in a few months.

The snow this morning means my morning cookie platter deliveries will be moved until after it clears up.

Finishing up the work on the new opening for BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, so that TRACKING MEDUSA can go to the publisher. Then, it’s back to finishing SERENE AND DETERMINED, and the FIX-IT GIRL revisions.

I’ve captured the text I need from my websites; there are some changes I will make in the re-design and the move. By late January, I hope to have the new designs on the new host. I’m also looking at getting some logos designed. Fearless Ink needs a more unique logo — and a more unique look for the website. I still want to keep everything simple, but the graphics need to be more striking, and more to the point.

When I put up the ocean graphics for both Fearless and the main Devon Ellington Work sites, that’s where I was, that’s who I was. At the edge of the ocean. The work and I have both evolved, and the websites need to reflect that.

So, today is about digging in to the work, about revising for an editor, about my mom’s appointment with the surgeon, and delivering cookie platters. I’m also digging in to the holiday card writing later — I need to get that done!

Tomorrow, I will be late blogging — car repairs will take up the morning, and then more cookie platter deliveries! But then, I should be done with the platters, and can focus on finishing the cards, and finishing up some work for a client meeting on Monday.

I love sitting here, watching the snow fall! (Although I dread going out in it later — there’s much more snow than predicted)!

 

Published in: on December 14, 2017 at 1:24 pm  Comments Off on Thurs. Dec. 14, 2017: First Accumulated Snow of the Season!  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thurs. Dec. 20: I Impersonate the Cookie Elf and Other Tales

IMG_0734
Advent Table

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Waxing Moon
Sunny and cold

Yesterday was about packing and delivering more cookie platters. Yup, that was pretty much the entire day. Several libraries, the business center, the vet, the fire department, the dump, Country Gardens, The Writers Center, Long Pasture, etc. — all the places I spend a lot of time and where they’re always good to me. Everyone seemed really pleased.

Yes, the platters take time and energy, but it’s also a way of letting these people I deal with all year know that they matter.

Check out this article by Frank Mulligan on the National Marine Life Center — not only is it a good piece to get more attention to the Center, but it’s exceptionally well-written!

I spoke with my friend over at Long Pasture about partnering with the Marine Life Center on a few things in the coming year — he’s open to it. I think it would be tons of fun, and that way, all of us could utilize our membership lists and expand coverage.

Still haven’t finished the holiday cards!

The plan was to get the cards done today and take the last platters Over the Bridge tomorrow — however, the weather today is great, and tomorrow is supposed to be disgusting, so I got up early, baked the last batch of red velvet cupcakes, and will do it this afternoon. I did get some more of the decorating done yesterday, and am starting to clear away the boxes.

Yoga was great this morning. And I stopped at the beach on the way home.

Tomorrow’s Yule — the Winter Solstice. I’m excited — I’m looking forward to the ceremony.

Devon

Enjoy some Delectable Digital Delights for the holidays — two Nina Bell comic mysteries, and an Ava Dunne-penned romantic comedy/fantasy twist on Yuletide Myths. All under $2!

“When Words Align” — get your WIP or revision back on track in this week-long intensive, Jan. 2-9, 2013. Information and registration here.

“Sensory Perceptions” — take your writing to the next level, layering in sensory description, creating six flash fiction and one longer story from Jan. 2-Feb. 3, 2013. Information and Registration here.

Mon. Dec. 15, 2012: Holiday Prep

IMG_0715
Tessa helps

Monday, December 15, 2012
Waxing Moon
Rainy and cold

It’s snowing up in Maine, but all we have here is rain.

What can one say about those shootings in CT? Well, plenty, but it’s going in an article, so I won’t spout off here. It’s horrible, and my heart goes out to all those families.

I read the anthology AN APPLE FOR THE CREATURE over the weekend, and, eerily enough, Charlaine Harris’s opening story had to do with a school shooting. One of my students in the Flash 7 class also wrote a powerful piece about it.

Roofers finished on Saturday, before the bad weather hit. They did a wonderful job, and we’re all snug for winter. The dumpster removal guy is here now, so the dumpster will be gone shortly, which is great.I spent a lot of time in holiday preparations, baking, etc. There’s still a lot more to do, but the holiday cards are out, I’ve made a start on the domestic cards, which I hope to finish today.

Finished my play Saturday night and got it out just under the deadline. Not happy with it, but I had to try. I’m letting it sit for a few days, and, next weekend, will do a revision. If it gets into the festival, I’ll swap out the revised version for the one they have. But at least I met the deadline.

Flash 7 class wound up. I was pleased at the quality of the work. Emotionally, the students went for the jugular in the best possible way. I’m revising my own pieces from the class and getting them out this week. I want to get as much off my desk as possible before the holidays. I’ll be writing over the holidays, but I want it to be what I want to write, not what I have to write. I also have to finish getting the short holiday pieces up on Smashwords, and prep “First Feet” for its free download on the Solstice. Plus get out some more pitches and hustle a few gigs for the first of the year.

I’ve got two classes starting on January 2 — a week-long “When Words Align” to help those who are stuck in their manuscripts or revisions, and a full month of “Sensory Perceptions”. I’ve got a full quota of private students, for the first portion of the year, but have a few slots for project-specific students. I’m also pursuing some higher-paying regular gigs.

I need to restructure so I can get the novels stacked up completed and out the door — if they’re not ready to go out and earn their keep, they’re not doing any of us any good, and I’ve spent too much time for too little money on other people’s work this year.

Later in the week, I hope to finish my new brochure, and then do a big mailing, so people will take a look at it and book me after the holidays.

Onward!

Devon

Thurs. Dec. 15: Admitting mistakes and forgiveness

Thursday, December 15, 2011
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Still dark out

Made the cheat sheets, made the tags, put the platters together, ran around delivering most of them. People like a little remembrance, and I like to take a moment to let them know they matter to me.

The Writers’ Association dinner was last night, at a lovely Italian restaurant. It was fun — good company, great food. I was talking about my negative experience at a local organization — the place that scheduled, then cancelled, then rescheduled, then didn’t bother to put me in the brochure. I’m not the only one who’s had a bad experience. A cooking teacher sat beside me. She was scheduled to teach there. She and the students arrived, to find the kitchen in the process of demolition. The place decided they didn’t need one, not paying any attention that they’d booked classes in there, and, of course, never bothered to contact the instructor or the students ahead of time.

Good place to stay away from!

Arranged to have a drink on Monday night with someone with whom I may collaborate on a theatre piece. That’s exciting.

And I have leads on two more possible workshop venues. I need to follow them up this week.

One of the places I pitched to the previous day is interested in me. I’m doing a similar gig for someone else — but these guys pay double what the others do. If we can work out the details, it would be both fun and the money worth the time.

Came home to relax, only to discover I’d made a mortifying mistake. Had to admit to it and then try to fix it. I’d like to beg exhaustion as the excuse, but really, there is no excuse. I seem to be the only one really upset about it, so that’s a relief. Now, I have to forgive myself — always the hardest part of any such process.

Hopefully, yoga this morning will help.

It’ll be funny down the line, when I have some distance. Maybe. But I’m really angry with myself now.

I worked with a producer in NY. If someone made a mistake and felt awful about it, she’d say, “Did anybody die?” When you said no, she’d say, “Then it’s not so bad. Nobody died. Let’s go fix it.”

The writing did not go well yesterday. I have to go back and do some untangling. One has days like that. You push through and keep going. If you use that as an excuse not to write, you lose momentum and the book doesn’t get finished.

I’m going to write a bit this morning before heading off to yoga. Have some errands to run, more discussion with the potential client, then must spend time with students, and also get out the domestic cards.

Onward (albeit a little down on myself today).

Devon

Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 5:58 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Iris rests up for Costume Imp’s visit

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
FULL Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Rainy and cool

I’m a guest over on Curling Up By the Fire (as Annabel), talking about character evolution. Come visit and drop a comment.

Hit the ground running yesterday, doing my work on SPIRIT REPOSITORY, spending time with my students (who are really cool, by the way), changing the beds, dealing with the yard (in spite of drizzle), working on articles, working on stuff for the Mermaid Ball, dealing with more promo for ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, forgetting to do my health care paperwork (I’m almost there, just gotta fill out the last bit), grocery shopping, more laundry, vacuuming, last-minute tidying, etc.

I plated the various cookies and lemon bars, wrapped them, loaded them all on a massive tray, covered them in foil, taped the note to the top, and dropped it off at the library. When I walked in, looking like I was carrying the Christmas Turkey, the whole library fell silent.

Then, one of the librarians darted forward and said, “This is AWESOME!”

The rest of the drop offs were one little plate each. Well, how the hell did I know? I had no information! All I knew was there were six houses on the tour. So I baked for six tables! 😉

Costume Imp got here safely — I pulled in just behind the bus. We came home, did a round in the yard, had a glass of wine on the chilly deck, got him settled in the room. I’d made potato salad, and then cooked some battered chicken (as in, dipped in batter, I didn’t beat it up or anything) and steamed green beans with butter.

Had a lot of email to deal with in the evening. Finished my first Writers Vineyard piece and scheduled it to post– let’s hope it does. Was invited to contribute an article to an interesting-sound mag for August that will also help promote ASSUMPTION. Still working on some other articles that need to get out the damn door.

The cats woke me at 4:30 this morning. I told them no one was paying me to be up that early, and I wasn’t gonna! Finally got up just before 6. Yoga, meditation, garden, and 1,212 words on SPIRIT REPOSITORY.

I’m really proud of the Write in Company class. They are sticking to it and brainstorming and chatting about ideas. It’s a good start, let’s hope we all build on the momentum.

I’ve got a lot of work to do in the morning while Imp sleeps in; then we are dashing around to farmers’ markets and grocery stores. Imp wants to cook while he’s here, which is fine with me! 😉

Tonight is Game 7 between Boston and Vancouver, and I’m gonna watch!

I finished the material for Confidential Job #1 and have to write it up, do some more work for the Mermaid Ball, and get a couple of other things out the door.

Onwards!

Devon

ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT available from Champagne Books.
Annabel Aidan webpage here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Violet and Elsa’s response to the baking activity

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Waning Moon
Cloudy and cold

And we’re into Day 5 of no hot water. Getting tired of taking either cold showers or the infamous “whore’s bath.”

It will be months, probably next year, before I can face icing another cookie. I iced from noon until 11 PM last night — close to 500 cookies. AND baked another batch of thumbprints (which came out beautifully) and eggnog angels (that dough is a nightmare to work with).

Re: the latter, the eggnog cookies, I realized that EVERY recipe I tried from the magazine that contains that recipe was wrong. I’m wondering if they actually tested these recipes or, because of cutbacks due to the recession, someone made ‘em up and they printed them without testing. The proportions are wrong. The only even remotely usable recipe is the eggnog cookie (and the icing rocks,now that I’ve modified it). Now, the reason I buy other people’s recipes for holiday cookies is because I’m baking about 1000 of them, and I don’t have time to mess with the recipe. I want something that works. If I wanted to muck around with the recipe, I’d start from scratch and make my own!

Example: For the eggnog icing, it said to put in 3 Tablespoons of eggnog to the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla mixture and then spread on the cookie. You wanna know what 3 T of eggnog made it look like? Cornmeal. It took 7 Tablespoons of good-quality eggnog from my favorite dairy to make a spreadable consistency — 8 if you want it really smooth. SEVEN. That’s a big difference from THREE.

If I’d had the time, I could have messed with the recipe and figured out by how much the amount of flour was off, and how much more I needed to add to make it a solid, workable consistency, not only for rolling it out (I used THREE POUNDS of flour to roll out one batch of cookies, that’s how badly it stuck to everything), but so the cookies wouldn’t break. My normal breakage rate for cookies is about 3 or 4 out of every 100, so 3-4%. With this recipe, it was about 40%. With one of the other recipes in the same magazine, it was 100% — the cookies simply dissolved on the baking sheet.

I started baking cookies when I was four, so I’ve been doing this a LONG time, and I’ve never hit a package of recipes that are this far off, proportion-wise. I may mess with the eggnog recipe over the coming months to get the proportions right, but as for the rest? Not using this publication again, and certainly not buying it next year. AND I’m going to contact them and let them know why. In a half a dozen recipes, surely ONE should have come out exactly as written! I mean, they all should, but still . . .

On the flip side, Martha Stewart’s recipe for Royal Icing comes out perfectly, and I bless the day I picked up Wilton’s meringue powder at the chef store, thinking it might come in useful someday. That stuff is awesome.

Errands in the morning went well. Gotta love Trader Joe’s, dropped my cartridges off at the really good Staples in Larchmont, got my favorite Jim’s Organic Coffee at Mrs. Green’s, found where my yoga studio’s moved — a new, larger, lighter space with better parking, and about a minute closer to me. So that’s all good.

I’m downloading photos and doing the Cookie Cheat Sheets that I pack with them –a photo of the cookie and a one-line description, and warnings if there are any nuts or whatever. And then we assemble the platters, load them into the car and head out. I expect it will take almost all day to deliver 30 platters. I’m anchoring each platter with a small gingerbread cake, and then I have between 3-7 of six different kinds of cookies on each — you can see, there are a lot of cookies around. I have cookie tins stacked everywhere.

I also baked a cake yesterday — I meant to bake it for St. Nicholas Day, but oh well. It’s from the SILVER PALATE GOOD TIMES COOKBOOK, only I changed it. It’s supposed to be a straight up coffee cake with buttermilk, and then a layer of fruit on it and a layer of walnuts. Well, I went to the store because I never keep buttermilk in the house — don’t like it and usually forget to use it when I buy it. There were 16 kinds of eggnog (SIXTEEN — who knew you could have so many flavors of eggnog? Heck, I only drink eggnog once a year; I want it to taste like EGGNOG) — and no buttermilk. The entire shelf of buttermilk was sold out. So I guess a lot of people are baking this year.

Anyway, I picked up sour cream instead, and used sour cream instead of buttermilk — which to me, made the batter taste better. I mixed in the fruit and nuts instead of layering them — and it’s a pretty darned lovely cake, if I do say so myself!

Okay, off to finish the Cookie Cheat Sheets, assemble the platters. I think I’ll have to put the back seat down in order to load 30 cookie platters into a Volkswagen.

Have a great day, everyone!

Yeah, not much writing done yesterday OR this morning, but I have to admit, the minute I lose my holiday spirit, I sit down and write a few paragraphs, and it comes back.

Devon