CookieCon Part 3: How I lost my CookieCon virginity! Vol. 1

Could you tell by the title of this post that Arty is not the author? What gave it away? Was it the sassiness or the fact that Arty has "been around the block"...if you know what I mean? Well, friends, until last month I was a CookieCon virgin, but guess what? I lost my virginity...and it was EVEN BETTER than I expected! (I'd make an inappropriate comment here, but I'll let you insert your own...'cause I'm a giver like that.) And since you only lose your CookieCon virginity once, I thought I should document it. You know, so I don't forget how magical it was...and so other people can learn from my experience.

I was thrilled when Arty & Mr. John said they were taking me along to Salt Lake. The last time CookieCon was held, I wanted to attend, but I was a brand new cookier and my husband thought that flying to Utah, staying in a hotel & going to a conference for my new HOBBY was a little much.  But this time, since I was going for work, my main squeeze didn't bat an eyelash! Yay for having a rad cookie job! It's true that CookieCon didn't officially start until Thursday, but Arty was teaching pre-CookieCon classes, and we had a 12 hour drive, so we left home on Monday. We dropped off our kids at their respective schools, BARELY crammed everything into the car, and hit the road. A 12 hour drive may sound boring, but for the 3 of us it really isn't. We find ourselves pretty entertaining. Plus, we're pretty much brilliant when we're on a road trip, so let's just say we have some great stuff coming up at McGoo U that is a direct result of those 12 hours.

A screenshot from the live video we did from the road. The car was PACKED!

A screenshot from the live video we did from the road. The car was PACKED!

On Tuesday we did CookieCon prep all day. I won't bore you with the details about shopping at Wal-Mart and the Deseret Industries thrift store and unloading the car. I'm pretty sure can imagine how that went. Let's skip to the good stuff...Tuesday night! There was a prep party for all of the pre-CC teachers. It was awesome. I FINALLY met her house...and she fed me dinner! I also met Stephanie (The Hungry Hippopotamus), the very delightful Patrice from Springerle Joy, Monica (Cookie Cowgirl), Leslie (4 Peas and a Dog) and Anne (Flourbox Bakery). The other Pre-CC teachers were also there, but I didn't get a chance to chat with them. But let me just say this: You know how you sit at your house and watch McGoo U on your laptop/TV/iPad/phone? And you feel like you know those cookie people, and you're sure you'd like them if you met them in person? Well, IT'S TRUE! YOU WOULD! They are all "As seen on TV", and I liked every single one of them...for real. 

Wednesday was crazy fun. Arty had 2 pre-CookieCon classes, and the first (Steampunk) started at 8 AM. Even though CookieCon hadn't officially started, the energy level was through the roof! Everyone was so excited to be there, and to meet people. I was VERY much looking forward to meeting Chris Taylor (Flour Sugar Butter). I think he's a sugar genius, and I knew I liked him based on his online presence. But his appearance on McGoo U sealed the deal for me (you've seen him in the "Hungry Games" skit, right?), and I was dying to meet him in the flesh. Well, it happened, and I was pretty much giddy.

Steampunk (top) & Fabulous 50's (bottom). Do we look like we were having fun? WE WERE!

Steampunk (top) & Fabulous 50's (bottom). Do we look like we were having fun? WE WERE!

The afternoon class (Fabulous 50's) was also full of great cookiers, many of whom are McGoo U subscribers, I knew who Ann Murad (Suburban Madmom) was because we had had a few interactions online. Truth be told, if I saw Ann in Target, I'd be intimidated. She has tattoos and piercings, and blue hair! She also happens to be one of the nicest humans I've met. I don't even know how many times I hugged her during CookieCon, but it was a lot. 

With Chris Taylor (Flour Sugar Butter). I need to step up my selfie game!

With Chris Taylor (Flour Sugar Butter). I need to step up my selfie game!

With Ann Murad (Suburban Madmom)

With Ann Murad (Suburban Madmom)

That day was a dream come true. I met a lot of other "friends" that I had never seen in real life.  I want to talk about every single one of them, but there simply isn't room here. (They know who they are.  I'm pretty sure they are going to have to be the subject of another post.) Needless to say, I loved Wednesday, and CookieCon hadn't even started!

Coming soon: Vol 2 - CookieCon Begins!



CookieCon Part 2: The McGoo Challenge

Hello my lovely cookie friends, this is Kim (Arty's assistant). I'm writing today's post, so if you see swear words or any kind of inappropriateness, that's me, NOT Arty! She would never allow such behavior...which is probably why I shouldn't let her proofread this! :)

For the record, we have VERY good intentions when it comes to writing Cookie Con blog posts, it's just been pretty busy around here. So we're going to do it in installments. Today we bring you installment #2: The McGoo Challenge! We've talked about the McGoo Challenge in our weekly live videos on Facebook, but thought we should probably document in writing what it was, how it worked, who won, and how much fun it was!

The McGoo Challenge looked like this:

This is the sheet of paper we handed out to all of our participants!

This is the sheet of paper we handed out to all of our participants!

This list was available at the Arty McGoo vendor booth, and was free with a purchase. As you can see, we were asking people to post lots of pictures, make new friends, get out of their comfort zones, bring me diet Coke, visit sites, and even help clean up! But the grand prize was pretty amazing and we figured we'd get a few takers. So, we sent all of the willing souls out into the Cookie Con world (and downtown Salt Lake City) to accomplish the tasks at hand. We were thrilled with the response! Everyone seemed to be having fun, I was collecting more diet Coke than I could drink, we were given beautiful, delicious cookies, and the photos people posted were AWESOME! We've picked some of our favorites to show you:

How fun are those? Aren't our cookie friends cute?

We had asked a lot, and so we naively thought that very few people would be able (and/or willing) to complete the entire list. Boy, were we wrong! We had nine people complete EVERY SINGLE THING! That meant that while we wanted to let everyone win, we had to draw a random winner. And here (drumroll please) are the results:

In a 7-way tie for 3rd place we had: Lisel Powell, Karin Selinger, Jennifer Wallace, Rebekah Paredes, Cindi Turner, Laura Moffat, and Bekah Fairley

2nd place went to Joslin Humphrey, who is only 16! Look at how adorable she is! She was ON IT, and she was the very first to turn in her paper! What an impressive McGoo U student!

Arty, Joslin, and Mr. John

Arty, Joslin, and Mr. John

And finally, 1st place went to Sarah Hallford! We are over the moon that Sarah will be joining Arty & Mr. John in Kansas City next week for the taping of McGoo U. Watch for her in upcoming episodes!

A HUGE thank you to everyone who participated! We loved seeing all of your photos, visiting with you at the booth, receiving your cookies, watching you get to know each other, and witnessing the cookie love. And just to be clear, I did not drink all of the diet Coke myself. I shared with Sweet Sugarbelle AND The Cookie Architect, who were extremely grateful. To see ALL of the McGoo Challenge craziness, go to Instagram & search #McGooChallenge. You'll enjoy it; I promise.

All about CookieCon....psyche! It's all about Sonya!

I met Sonya last October at our North Carolina cookie class. She is tall and stunning with the sweetest southern drawl you ever heard. Sonya teaches school full time, is married, has 2 boys, and makes amazingly beautiful cookies. We asked her to tell us how she does it all. Here's what she had to say:

Teacher by Day – Cookier by Night and Weekends…and Holidays….and any break from school!

Hi Sweet Cookie Friends and fellow McGoobers!

I was beyond thrilled when I was asked to submit an article for Arty McGoo’s blog!  I was asked to describe how I am able to juggle being a teacher and running a successful part time cookie business.  I am currently a full time teacher at Palmetto High School in Williamston, SC, serving the special learning needs of students in grades 9-12.  These needs include learning and emotional disabilities, ADD, ADHD, autism and anxiety.  I am also our school’s ESL teacher, serving the needs of our English language learners.  I have been teaching for 18 years, and my passion is helping my students find success in school.  I am often referred to as Mama Pack!  

Sweet Treats by Sonya was created in March 2015 because of my love of baking and decorating!  I have always loved to bake for family and friends.  For years, I had always decorated sugar cookies with buttercream icing…until I stumbled across Sweet Sugarbelle’s blog and was introduced to the world of royal icing – game changer!  I spent many hours and late nights watching her video tutorials and reading all about the world of cookie decorating.    Callye Alvarado is officially my cookie mama – she taught me just about everything I know…and then I found Arty McGoo – through Sweet Sugarbelle’s blog- and here I am…constantly learning and loving every minute of it!

How do I juggle the world of teaching and the world of running a cookie business from my home?  I’m not sure – it is a miracle some weeks – and I am beyond blessed with an awesome family to help me.  Many afternoons include coming home from school, snacks and homework with my kids, and then I put on my apron and start rolling out cookie dough.  The decorating process lasts well into the night, so I have learned how to space out my orders throughout the week and weekend.  My oldest son Ethan is 12, and he is a great help with his younger brother Bryce, who is 4.  My husband, Andrew, has supported my vision of opening a small business from day one and he encourages me every step of the way.  He is also a master at cooking dinner, washing dishes, doing laundry and picking up items at the grocery store.  He practically has my recipes memorized and always knows what ingredients I need.  He supports my love of cookie toys and is not surprised when he sees purchases for cookie cutters, stencils and airbrush supplies.  He is also great at giving advice on cookie designs.  I value his input and opinion.

Andrew & Sonya

Andrew & Sonya


I had to miss a day of school to attend Arty’s Halloween Spooktacular workshop in October 2016, and it was well worth it!  Arty, please come back to the East Coast soon – I will be there!  Even my students support my love of all things cookie, and were thrilled to hear all about my trip when I returned.  In November 2016, we were able to enjoy some much-needed family time with a fabulous trip to Disney World.  I continue to have tremendous support from family, friends, co-workers and my fabulous customers!

In February, 2017 Sweet Treats by Sonya was renamed Sweet Sophia’s Custom Sugar Cookies in honor of our daughter, Sophia Grace.  Sophia was delivered into the hands of God in June 2011.  She was stillborn at birth.  I was 37 weeks pregnant.  Since her entire nursery was decorated in butterflies, we held a butterfly memorial service in her honor.  My new business name and logo are in honor of her, and she is able to be a special part of my cookie business.  I am thrilled for what the future has in store for Sweet Sophia’s and I am excited to continue learning all I can….and one day, I will make it to Cookie Con to meet all of you!  Thank you to all of the amazing cookie artists out there – you are such an inspiration to me!


Here are a few of my favorite sets!  I love pretty fonts, wood planks, airbrushing and hand painting!

Be sure to visit my website to see all of my work.  You can also follow me on Instagram @sweetsophias or find me on Facebook at SweetSophiasCookies.  Thank you for the cookie love and for allowing me to share my story!

Sonya Pack
Sweet Sophia’s





Meet our Guest Author: Ann the Amazing!

Today I'd like to introduce you to my amazingly artistic cookie friend, Ann Doyle. I met Ann last year when she attended Party McGoo 2: Electric Boogaloo. (What? You didn't know I give my cookie retreats such "interesting" names?) Ann is a scientist by day, and an extremely talented cookier by night. I found Ann, and the touching story of how she came to be a cookier, inspiring. So without further ado, meet Ann!   

Ann and her husband, John, who encouraged her to become a cookier!

Ann and her husband, John, who encouraged her to become a cookier!

Hi fellow cookiers! I am Ann from Atlanta, and am excited about the opportunity to contribute a little something to Arty's blog.

I was asked to explain how I combine being a biotech scientist by day, and an insomniac cookie artist by night, so here goes!  In February of 2016, I was not in a good place. My younger sister and my mom had died within weeks of each other and I was really sinking.  Although I had a wonderful husband, a happy home, and a great career (more on that later), I was still just so darned depressed.  While going through my FB feed, curled up in bed one day (eating cookies), I happened to see a cookie designed by Arty McGoo. I became fixated on it. My fantastic husband, who was trying hard to help me climb out from that dark place, said "you could do that".  So, after watching a few videos, and a trip (or 5) to Michael's, I had completed some cute wet-on-wet heart Valentine's Day cookies. The next thing you know, I'm outta the funk, and into the kitchen. Daily. Nightly. All weekend. I was hooked.  God had thrown me a life preserver in the form of powdered sugar, Sugar Veil, a great teacher, and a bunch of other sweet stuff.

Ok, so onto the aforementioned assignment: By day I work for a biotech pharmaceutical company that focuses on new treatments for rare genetic diseases. After college, my graduate school work was in biochemistry, working with storage centers within our cells, and how enzymes can help clear out some of the gunk our cells accumulate, especially in genetically impaired children. So part of being a "curious cookier" (hey, that could be a catchy name for a cookie blog!) involves adjusting ingredients in recipes and concocting new cookie ideas...just the way a biochemist might do in the lab: maybe 1/2 of an extra egg might stabilize volume and leavening while decreasing fluidity. Or, if I use potassium chloride (fake salt) vs sodium chloride (salt), will there be a change in texture/flavor/outcome (NERD!)?  And, for me, being an insomniac simply allows me to cookie constructively into the quiet, peaceful wee hours INSTEAD of lying in bed, counting Sweet Sugarbelle or Lilaloa sheep cookies.  So, there you go. Biotechie by day, insomniac cookie artist by night.

I'm grateful for my husband, my career, the cookie community (and learning from all of you), and my new passion for creating tasty, creative (sometimes kind of weird) treats for family and friends. I don't market/sell my creations: I do look for people who might need an emotional lift, and ship them cookies in hopes of helping them come out of their dark places as well-it's my ministry (hey! another idea for a cookie blog title: "The Compassionate Cookier!).

Thank you for reading my story.  If you'd like, please follow me @cookiewenches. Here are a few examples of my late night happy scientist cookie lab creations (the cookies in the bottom photo were influenced by Arty):

It's a brand new year! Meet a brand new McGoober!

Happy New Year! I love the beginning of a new year because it gives me a chance to reflect on the past and gear up for the future. I like to choose a Word of the Year. This year my word is "outside". I hope to spend 2017 doing more things "outside": outside my comfort zone, outside my house, outside of myself. I hope you've chosen some great things to accomplish this year.

Speaking of newness, this month I want you to meet my friend Colleen Cole. She is a BRAND new McGoober! I met Colleen last October when I went to North Carolina. She was kind enough to host my east coast cookie retreat in her home. She is fun, funny, and talented, but had never tried her hand at cookie decorating until the weekend I met her.  I know her cookie journey is going to be epic because she is already an excellent artist. her own words...Colleen's entry into the cookie community!

Arty, Colleen & Kim in Topsail, NC

Arty, Colleen & Kim in Topsail, NC

My name is Colleen and I am new to this whole cookie decorating world (as of 4 months ago I didn't know it even existed).  

I am a painter (acrylics on canvas) and a former grade school art teacher, which you would think would give me a "leg-up" when it comes to decorating cookies.... sadly, that is not the case.  My first experience  decorating cookies was at a girls weekend at the beach last October.  We forced our good friend Kim Holmes to give us a class. She did a GREAT job showing us how to make tombstone cookies... we (the beach girls) did a great job at laughing at our attempts to reproduce the sample cookies.  A few days later Liz taught a class in my home for her East Coast McGoobers.  Once again my teacher was AMAZING (come on... it was Liz herself how could she NOT be amazing live and in person).  I would like to say my second attempt was..... “perfection”...”stunning”...”two thumbs up”..."atta-girl"! Yep, I would like to say that.  Sadly I have to admit my cookies were.... "acceptable for a newbie" (a solid B-... maybe C+).

Since that class I've made the Thanksgiving Turkey cookies (kind of the Dim-witted version of Liz’s), wet on wet heart cookies, whale tails, and chili pepper cookies.  Each time I get more comfortable with my skills. Believe me...painting on canvas is A LOT different than painting with food coloring on royal icing!  I love that this is a different venue for expressing art - Who knew!?!  My guess is that I will get better and better with every attempt (or at least that's what I'm telling myself).  It was so fun getting to know Liz and finding out about this cookie world.  I’m Colleen. I’m a new McGoober. And this is going to be a fun adventure!


Liz here again...  Colleen is being very modest and her first cookie attempts were both strong A's (after the tombstones she made the paper doll set!).  Her natural artistry definitely shines through even though she is brand new at this.  And those peppers?  Seriously?  I would be proud of those beauties!  I'd even say A+  



Cookie Spotlight

I love how as soon as January 2nd arrives, my social media feed is FLOODED with Valentine's Day cookie ideas. As you probably already know, I love a good pun, and Valentine's Day is by far the punniest of all holidays. So I'd like to share these phenomenally punny cookies that graced social media with their presence. They are by the VERY talented Claudia at Sugar Happy Cookies, they are adorable, and I love them!