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"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


Feb 04, 2019 11:37pm

Julia Usher baking in her home kitchen
Noshes and Notions

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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Jumble of Julia's Jewelry :: Photo by Julia M. Usher

Celebrating the Everyday:
A Study in Repurposing, and Taking Time to Breathe

OK, so this feature isn’t my usual special party, but it is a celebration in its own right - of the smaller things in life that we (or at least, I) too often take for granted. After a whirlwind winter of event-hopping to promote my latest book, I finally returned home earlier this month. My first obsessive-compulsive impulse upon “landing” was to tend to the many home projects that have been calling out for attention for months - like taming the dust bunnies bouncing in every corner and the honeysuckle that’s choking my backyard. Alas, I couldn’t muster the strength. My next impulse was to start my equally large number of neglected work projects - instructional videos, assorted TV pitches, a new book proposal . . . the list goes on. Yet again, no taste for this stuff. I waffled for a while with no sense of purpose. Then I did what I rarely do . . .

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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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Chat with Julia News From Julia's Kitchen
  • Check out Julia’s new stencil line, designed in partnership with the amazing Confection Couture Stencils (formerly Stencil Ease)! Julia M Usher, Recipes for a Sweet Life, new stencil line
  • See Julia’s exciting lineup of 2018 cookie classes - Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Patagonia, Switzerland, and more!
  • Woo hoo! In late 2016, Julia was named both Artist of the Year USA and International Artist of the Year by EAGA (Edible Artists Global Awards)! She also received Cake Masters Magazine‘s “Cookie Icon” distinction in their July 2018 issue. Read that interview here. Julia M Usher, Recipes for a Sweet Life, sugar art awards, EAGA, 2016 Edible Artists Global Awards
  • Explore the world of cookie decorating! Join Cookie Connection, Julia’s free cookie community. Then grab a badge! Julia M Usher, Cookie Connection, online cookie decorating community