If you follow me on Instagram, you already know this: I’m totally obsessed with sugar cookies right now. You know, the kind of obsession that keeps you up at night, in the best kind of way. Because you’re so excited about it.
A lot of people have been asking about them.
So here’s a little background.
How it started
The baking thing began with me trying to mom too hard.
Samantha’s first birthday was in the fall, and I wanted to make a few sweets for it. A cake for her to smash in a photo shoot, some cupcakes for the party, and a few cake pops because that seemed like a good idea.
I’ve always loved baking but haven’t always had the time or energy to commit to it. When we were kids, my sister and I used to host our own imaginary cooking show. (The ratings were great! Ha.)
After Samantha’s first birthday party, the cookie thing began. It started as a stress coping mechanism. You really have to focus when decorating these cookies, and that’s great stress relief.
Why have I been stressed? While working on my films, I ran into a few tech and funding challenges several months ago. An external hard drive died, then my computer crashed, and my websites had a few months of hosting mess. (My favorite things! She said, sarcastically.) It felt like lots of things were failing in the most expensive ways, and all of it was out of my control.
Obviously, these are first world problems. I’ve got a healthy perspective on it, you know. But they’re expensive challenges that are slowing progress and I find it incredibly annoying.
In October, my sister and I signed up for a cookie decorating class with Southern Sugar Bakery. The women that started the company are fellow Meredith College graduates, so I have been following them from afar for a few years. Taking the class was a no brainer.
The class taught me how a lot about royal icing, which has always been a little intimidating. They showed me how to get the consistency more accurate, decorating techniques (like the wet–on-wet options), using a toothpick to fix goofs, letting part of the icing dry and then adding more, finishing sugar, etc. We packed a lot of good info into a short, fun class.
See the finished pumpkins on Instagram!
Following my curiosity
A few years ago, I also promised myself that I’d follow my curiosity.
It’s part of living a creative life. This little thing piques your interest. You follow your curiosity and it leads to another things. Then somewhere along the way you’ve become totally obsessed with learning all you can about it. And you eventually try to explain it to family or friends during the holidays so you don’t seem too crazy. When, really, you’re just following your curiosity to see where it’ll go.
When I made some cookies for a young woman who loves dancing (the daughter of a friend), for example, I recalled all of the documentaries I’d seen about the dance industry. I fell in love with Misty Copeland again. I discovered @chloearnoldtaps. I also recalled all of the countless hours I spent at Le Moulin Rouge de Danse in tap, jazz, and ballet classes.
Making those cookies was such a fun, unexpected trip down memory lane – because I followed my curiosity.
Meanwhile, the cookies I made for another friend really helped me appreciate the magic of Sesame Street. Her daughter recently turned two, and she currently loves Elmo. So I made a few cookies for her birthday party.
While making the Elmo cookies, I sincerely gained a new appreciation for children’s programming. I watched Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood a lot as a kid. Now my own daughter watches these shows. It’s incredible how much they have meant to children – for so many generations. The man who plays Big Bird retired this fall and it’s wild to think of all the generations of kids that have watched him. (Read this NYT article about Big Bird.)
At the party, I loved seeing all of the kids recognize – with delight! – the characters from the show. It’s really rewarding (especially as a filmmaker) to see people connecting with characters so passionately. It made me feel so much gratitude for the chance to tell stories.
Again, all of this unfolded because I’ve been following my curiosity with making cookies this year. Without asking too much of it in return. With a sense of joy and willingness to see where it goes. I feel so incredibly grateful and humbled.
It’s so much fun!
Elizabeth Gilbert put this “curiosity thing” into words in Big Magic. It’s a book I highly recommend you read. Repeatedly. (I’ve just started reading it again for the fifth time.)
The gist is a promise to embrace your curiosity (or inspiration), without limiting it or requiring too much from it. You’re open and willing to go on the journey. You choose to “cooperate fully, humbly, and joyfully with inspiration” and “receive your ideas with respect and curiosity, not with drama or dread.”
That’s what I’m doing with the cookies. I’ve embraced my curiosity. I don’t require anything from it right now, and I’m open to where it may lead.
Maybe it’ll help me dust off a few old memories.
Maybe it’ll help me reconnect with people I already adore or introduce me to some really cool people.
Maybe it’ll inspire a character or screenplay.
Maybe it will become a new business.
Or maybe it’ll be part of a new family holiday tradition.
I’m completely obsessed.
I really love making sugar cookies. They’re so challenging and infuriating in the best kind of way. Making them brings people so much joy, which makes me so happy.
Right now I want to buy all of the Valentine’s Day cookie cutters. They’re sitting in my online shopping carts, waiting for me to click on the order button. I’m trying to restrain myself. Who’s going to eat them!?!
No, wait, that’s not the conclusion…
Follow your curiosity!
See where it leads.
It’ll be interesting!
Tell me what you think
Use the comments to share what’s on your mind. I’d love to hear from you. And you know I could talk about sugar cookies for a whiiiiiile!