Cookie Swap - It's Pretty Sweet Cookie Book Cover Buy it! Cookie Book Cover Buy it!

"This really is the ULTIMATE cookie book. Whimsical, elegant, colorful, and creative!! What more could you ask for? You will not be disappointed.”

Colette Peters

Celebrity Cake Decorator; Owner, Colette's Cakes

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Oct 21, 2014 3:33pm

Julia Usher baking in her home kitchen
Noshes and Notions

Touches of Class:: Steve Adams


Back-to-School Bonanza
Party Ideas That Score an A-Plus

OK, I admit it, I was and always will be a nerd. While other kids were cajoling their parents into taking them to Bob’s Surplus, where new stand-on-their-own stiff Levi’s could be bought for ten dollars or less, I was beating down the doors of Dudley & Beckwith, our small town equivalent of Office Depot, in hot pursuit of the latest in pencil pouches and notepads. (Oh, and my requisite Little Lulu fix.)

I’m well past my back-to-school days (as if that wasn’t obvious), but the start of fall still triggers the same Pavlovian giddiness about the prospect of new chapters to be opened and important lessons to be learned.

In celebration of my favorite time of the year, I offer you this back-to-school party, including some never-before-seen outtakes from Cookie Swap. Whether you host a cookie swap as I did, a school fundraiser, or some other affair, you’ll find plenty of ideas here to launch your next party to the top of its class.

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Climbing Cookies :: Photo by Steve Adams


A Cookie Coming-Out:
Cookies Debut as the Life of the Party!

Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Not familiar with that sound? Well then, you’re as lucky as a kid in a candy shop, because most of us can recognize the sound of the cash register tallying up party damages from miles away.

There’s no denying: Throwing a party can burn a hole clear through your pocketbook by the time you add up the food and drink, not to mention the invitations, flowers, favors, and countless other party accoutrements. That’s why I’m always seeking ways for my party sweets, particularly cookies, to double as party décor. Cookies have a relatively long shelf life compared to cakes, so they’re ideal for dressing up and displaying beforehand, sampling throughout the party, and then handing out as keepsakes as guests leave.

Skeptical that a cookie can be eye candy, food, and favor all at the same time? Don’t be. Let me show you how I’ve taken cookies out of the box (and off their traditional plates) and made them the life of many a party . . .

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Lavender Luxe :: Susan Jackson


Field of Dreams:
A No-Fuss Farm-to-Table Fête

Alfresco is one of my favorite ways to entertain. And late September into early October, after the summer swelter has passed, is the best time to do it here in Missouri. This farm-to-table dinner party took place at precisely this transition of seasons a few years ago, at Winding Brook Estate, a 16-acre lavender farm tilled into tidy, fragrant rows by my friends Deborah and Steve Nathe. The occasion: a simple respite from the rigors of tending 7,000 lavender plants!

I was honored that Deborah asked me to plan and style her event (one that would be featured in a local magazine, no less). But I also recognized the challenge of adapting my “more-is-more” approach to her minimalist aesthetic. She wanted to keep the party down-to-earth, yet still give guests that ah-ha experience they’d never forget. Hmmmm . . . simple, yet over-the-top? Subtle, but showy? What had I gotten myself into, and was it even possible?

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Chat with Julia News From Julia's Kitchen
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  • Woo hoo! Listen to Julia’s recent NPR interview, and read about her Best Cookier of 2013 Award. Julia M Usher, Best Cookie Decorator, Best Cookie Decorator of 2013, Award, Cake Masters Awards
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