Guest Post: Scientist/Cookier/Pie Champion, Chris Taylor!

Arty: Chris Flipping Taylor is one of the few, one of the proud, male cookie decorators in our cookiesphere.  So his real middle name is not flipping, but Chris Flipping Taylor! is what I usually utter whilst scrolling through his instagram feed looking at all his beautiful culinary creations.  His cookie designs are crazy creative and don't get me started on his pies.  They are works of art!  And because I've had the chance to hang out with this wonderful man on several occasions, I know that he makes me laugh hysterically with his wit and humor.  Did you know we also hung out with KISS together?  But that's another story. 

If you don't already know Chris, today is your lucky day!  and if you do know Chris... today is your lucky day to get to know him better!  ... I suddenly have a serious hankerin' for pie.     

 My friend Chris. To know him is to love him!

My friend Chris. To know him is to love him!

I live in Atlanta, Georgia now, but before I moved to the ATL, I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In Pittsburgh, I was working hard on finishing my graduate degree. I discovered baking as a way to escape and relax from the mountains of work I had. I turned procrastibaking into an art! In fact, with my baking, I became the go-to guy for baking birthday cakes and other goodies in the office where I worked. As I learned more about baking, I also discovered decorating cookies.

 Birthday Cake Cookies!

Birthday Cake Cookies!

I didn’t do a lot of cookie decorating while I was still in school, and I certainly didn’t do it well. Eight years ago, when I moved south, I really started taking up decorating cookies as a hobby. Like most cookie decorators, I didn’t go to culinary school, but rather I learned by following blogs and watching online video tutorials (including Arty McGoo, of course!).

 Chris' hand-painted Academy Award cookies...which were in the CookieCon Sugar Show!

Chris' hand-painted Academy Award cookies...which were in the CookieCon Sugar Show!

I love making cookies, and I always share them with my friends and co-workers. Like many cookie makers, I’ve turned down a lot of requests over the years to bake for friends' events. Without a commercial kitchen, it is against the law to sell food in Georgia (in most states, actually).

 Pathogen cookies that Chris made for a friend's retirement party.

Pathogen cookies that Chris made for a friend's retirement party.

Georgia has cottage food regulations that allow home-based bakers to make and sell their wares, including decorated cookies, from their home kitchens.  However, foods that require refrigeration, like cheesecakes, cream pies, and cakes with Swiss meringue buttercream (our favorite!) are not allowed.  After much research, we made the decision to build a commercial kitchen in the basement of our home.  This would allow us to bake cakes, cookies, and pies for sale in the same way any bakery would but without a retail storefront. With both of us working full-time, this was a great fit for us. We could take orders and bake as we needed without having to worry about opening and closing times and throwing out stale food that didn’t sell that day (seriously—some traditional retail bakeries toss a TON of food every day because it stales so quickly).

Renovating the basement was an adventure!  Learning all of the requirements for commercial kitchens was very important so we could assist our contractor in what we would need and where it would go in the setup we designed. A heat exhaust hood, three-compartment sink, and a mop sink, among other things, would all be required to pass inspection.  While the construction part was not terribly fun, buying new baking equipment was!  To furnish the space, we needed a new oven, refrigerator, and freezer. 

 Chris and Paul's commercial kitchen. So shiny!

Chris and Paul's commercial kitchen. So shiny!

We’re fortunate in Atlanta to have several restaurant supply stores, most of which sell equipment to the public. Check to see if you have one in your area—the prices are usually much cheaper for equipment like cutting boards, mixing bowls, spatulas, and cookie dough scoops than what we find at department stores or even Amazon.

After everything was in place, we were able to request an inspection. Fortunately, we passed with flying colors. After the inspection, we got our business license and tax certificate from the county. Everything was in place, and we were so close to opening! Have the orders started rolling in yet?  Well, no.  Why not?  Well, in the midst of renovations, we signed a contract to write a cookbook!

 Nom nom nom nom nom...

Nom nom nom nom nom...

While I love decorating cookies, I am also an avid pie baker. In 2017, I won the "Best of Show" award at the National Pie Championships. As a result, my husband and fellow pie baker, Paul, and I were written up in the New York Times. After the article was published, we were contacted by a few publishers and literary agents asking if we had ever considered writing a cookbook. After working with an agent, we submitted a book proposal and ultimately signed a contract with Clarkson Potter, an imprint of the Crown Publishing group within Penguin Random House. We put the bakery on hold while we worked to develop, test, refine, and write our pie cookbook! It’s been a lot of hard work, but as of today, our draft is submitted and we are going through the editing process, and it’s coming along very nicely.

 Chocolate Covered Cherry Pie

Chocolate Covered Cherry Pie

 

The New Pie, due for release in March 2019, is a pie cookbook, but it might include some of my favorite cookie techniques, too. Maybe royal icing might make an appearance. We might airbrush something. Maybe a stencil, or two?

 Reese's Pieces Pie...featuring Chris' mad airbrushing skills!

Reese's Pieces Pie...featuring Chris' mad airbrushing skills!

Guest Post: Nancy aka: The Colorful Cookie!

Arty: Ahhhhhh, Nancy Westfall.  If I were to sum up Nancy in a word it would be generous.  I got a hold of Nancy when we had a little emergency at McGoo U to see if she could fill in an Expert Lab segment for us.  I had never met her before!  You see, I have a theory that everyone has something to teach, and I truly believe that.  We are all experts at something.  What I didn't know was that Nancy is a flippin' GENIUS!  She has perfected the art of stencil making/designing and is a teacher by profession.  She swooped in like a superhero sans cape with her cutting machines and stencil making paraphernalia in tow ready to share her knowledge.  Did I mention she had 30 minutes notice?!  She blew me away!  If you have ever wondered about cutting your own stencils, Nancy is your woman.  She knows the ins, outs, and upside downs of the different machines, supplies, and tools and even better, she knows how to guide you through the learning process and make it easy for you.  

Nancy is a natural teacher, she is selfless, she loves sharing her passion and knowledge, and I'm SOOO grateful she came to my rescue and has several times since that first meeting.  Maybe the word I should use for Nancy is SUPERHERO!  Or maybe FRIEND...

 My cute friend Nancy

My cute friend Nancy

Nancy: I am so excited to be a guest on Arty McGoo’s Blog! I met Arty and Mr. John last Spring when they called me to film a video segment for McGoo U. It was quite a surprise! I was really excited!  I had no time to plan or get nervous because I was filling in for someone at the very last minute. I had no idea what was in store for me!  The people on set were so much fun! I had a great time. From that day on, I began meeting more cookiers and have continued to make great cookie friends.

 Shenanigans on the set of McGoo U!

Shenanigans on the set of McGoo U!

I got to go back and film again just last month. Getting to film with Arty a second time was just as much fun as the first.  

 Nancy and Arty filming a segment for McGoo U

Nancy and Arty filming a segment for McGoo U

From one good thing, came another! I had just moved back to the KC area last Spring. That evening after filming, there was a dinner/meet up for local cookiers. So many local cookiers came to meet Arty. It inspired me to create a Facebook group for the KC metro area cookiers so that we could keep in touch. It has grown to 42 members today. Through our local FB group, many of us have become close friends. It is great to have a good relationship with local cookiers. We get together often and even go on field trips once in a while. And as a special treat when the Arty McGoo Crew comes to town, we get together for dinner and an evening of fun with them! I feel like I have truly been blessed by some of the best friends!

In my previous life, I was an elementary school teacher. I loved it! I enjoy teaching very much! I had always wanted to learn to decorate sugar cookies. I started following a lot of cookiers on Facebook and watching YouTube videos. They were all so generous with their knowledge and helpful tutorials. When friends and family started asking me to decorate cookies for them, I decided to start my own cookie decorating business. I love all things colorful, so I called it “The Colorful Cookie.” I purchased several stencils for orders. Stenciling made the cookie decorating process quick and easy, but I had to plan in advance to order custom stencils. Sometimes there was not enough time to wait for them to come in the mail. That is when I decided to buy a Cricut Explore Air to design and cut my own stencils. I could not find any specific help or tutorials to show me the exact process. I spent many hours and wasted a lot of stencil material learning the process. Now, everything I see gets “stencilized” in my head! I always say it’s like when you learn to read. You can’t “unlearn” it, if that is a word. Everything just fell into place as I was learning how to use the software. I began sharing what I was learning with others in Facebook Groups. After mastering Cricut Design Space, people were asking me questions about Silhouette Studio software. I didn’t know anything about it, but I wanted to help them learn, so I purchased a Silhouette Cameo 3. More and more people started asking me questions, sending me emails and messages. I really enjoyed helping them learn. I was teaching again!

 Some of the designs available at The Colorful Cookie Stencil Studio

Some of the designs available at The Colorful Cookie Stencil Studio

I decided starting a blog would be a good idea, but I was spending a lot of time writing blog posts. I couldn’t interact with people to give them the help they needed. That was when I decided that we needed a Facebook group to interact with each other. I knew I could offer help quickly if I had a group. So many people would often say, "I don’t know how or I don’t have time to design my stencils. Would you sell me the stencil or the stencil file? I’d love to be able to buy them or cut them on my machine." And that is why I opened The Colorful Cookie Stencil Studio online shop for downloadable SVG files. I like to call them “Cookier Cut Files.” When someone needs a stencil in a hurry they have access to quick and easy stencils. Now cookiers who don’t know how to design can easily cut their own stencils on their cutting machine. The design work has been done for them. All they need to do is download the file and cut the stencil. I like to call that, “I Design…You Cut!”

 Some of Nancy's Easter designs

Some of Nancy's Easter designs

The next step in my journey was a big one! Teaching designing and cutting stencils became more than a full time job. I have followers from all over the world, which still amazes me! Launching The Colorful Cookie Club was a huge project for me. I have learned so much about technology and how everything hooks up. More than I ever wanted to know! The club is awesome and I am so glad that I started it!  It is a monthly membership club offering tutorials for both Cricut and Silhouette software. The tutorials cover all of the software tools and how to use cutting machines. With the membership also comes helpful support through a members only Facebook group, a weekly FB LIVE Q & A, a set of step by step, easy to follow stencil tutorials with a specific theme each month, a 20% discount on every item purchased from the online shop, a free stencil download each month, and members can be entered to win an Amazon gift card in our monthly contest.

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My cookie journey has been amazing and I am enjoying every minute of it! Thank you Arty McGoo and thank you to the cookie community. It’s the love and support from all of my cookie friends that has inspired me to do what I’m doing today.

If you are interested in learning more about designing and cutting stencils, The Colorful Cookie Club Membership is now open for enrollment.

Link to Club Membership Enrollment:

https://thecolorfulcookie.clickfunnels.com/cookieclub

Link to The Colorful Cookie Stencil Studio online shop:

https://thecolorfulcookieco.com/

The link to the free Colorful Cookie Stencil Studio Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/thecolorfulcookiestencilstudio/

 

 

 

 

 

Extra! Extra! New Arty Merch!

I'm VERY excited to announce that we have BRAND NEW Arty McGoo products in my shop! Since each one is kind of like one of my "children", I'd like to introduce you to each one!

First, and maybe my favorite (am I allowed to say that?) are these adorable, McGoo blue silicone spatulas! They come in 2 sizes: large...perfect for getting that dough or icing out of your bowl, and small...the perfect size for mixing your icing colors. No cookie kitchen is complete without one! For all of the details, click here.

 Aren't they the cutest?

Aren't they the cutest?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, let me introduce what I like to lovingly call the "Cookie Enabler Kit" This cute little baby toolbox includes everything you need to start decorating now...except the icing. (That would be messy.) In it you will find: 6 seamless, stainless steel decorating tips (101, 101s, 80 ruffle tip, 2, and two 1's), 1 ring and coupler to easily switch out tips, and 10 decorating bags that can be used with or without tips. It's perfect if you're just beginning your cookie journey, or as a gift for someone you are trying to lure into the cookie world! Click here to get yours.

 Baby toolboxes are fun!

Baby toolboxes are fun!

And speaking of those 10 decorating bags, we also have them in packs of 100! Tipless bags offer the ultimate in convenience when decorating. Just cut the size opening you need, from teeny-tiny "micropiping" to "Let's flood this fast" ginormous, and you're ready to go. You can tie a knot or use a closure to keep things tidy while you decorate. These bags are a traditional 8"x12" size and easy to handle. And the best news: each package of 100 is only $4. To order, click here.

 I'm so excited about these!

I'm so excited about these!

And if you just can't let go of your tips (I still love me some tips!) there is now an "essentials" collection of tips available in the shop. They come in various sizes: 1, 2, 101, 101s, and 80 (aka: "ruffle"). They are stainless steel, for those of you who like to be able to soak your tips, and SEAMLESS, for all of us....because your icing is less likely to curl as you're piping! Each one is etched with the Arty McGoo logo and the size. How cool is that? If this group shot isn't enough for you, you can see more pictures of these kids here.

 Awwwww.....

Awwwww.....

And since my least favorite thing about tips is cleaning them, I am pleased to introduce you to this! This handy dandy dual-ended brush will have your decorating tips cleaned out in a jiffy. Stubborn icing or greasy residue is no challenge for this dynamo. And bonus...it comes in a two pack...like twins! Get your own set of twins here.  

 They're identical!

They're identical!

And now...the Arty McGoo Flower nail! Size matters when it comes to flower nails, and this one has the right dimensions for creating perfectly petite flowers. The stem is ribbed and longer to aid in control as you swirl and twirl your way to a beautiful bouquet. Get all the deets here

 See? It's ribbed...for your flower-making pleasure.

See? It's ribbed...for your flower-making pleasure.

And last, but certainly not least, are my coupler and ring. Couplers and rings allow for a quick change of decorating tips. It's like those magicians who change their clothes in seconds! You can go from a round tip to a leaf tip; a ruffle tip to a star tip in a flash! Confetti and sound effects not included, but totally encouraged! You get both for the amazingly low price of FIFTY CENTS! Golly gee willikers, the  Arty McGoo website is like shopping a discount store...only cleaner...and prettier. 

 My couplers & rings work with Wilton, PME, and Arty McGoo tips!

My couplers & rings work with Wilton, PME, and Arty McGoo tips!

So there you have it, the latest in the Arty McGoo lineup! I hope you enjoyed learning about each one. Happy cookie decorating...and have a delicious day!

 

Need the perfect dress?

It's that time of year....time to find the perfect dress! Whether it's Easter, Prom, Graduation, Bridesmaid, Cocktail or Wedding, finding the right dress can be frustrating. And finding the perfect dress CUTTER can bring you to the point of tears! But not to worry, I feel your pain, and I'm here to help. Did you know I have a set of mix & match dress cutters? Well, I do...and I want you to see how they can help with your dress dilemma.

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Because there are so many options with my open-ended cookie cutters that you can mix and match, it’s almost impossible to show up to the party with the same dress as someone else!

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Aren't they so fun? And I made a video to show you even more options. Enjoy!

So, are you ready for the perfect dress? You can get yours here. Happy dress making!