October 28, 2009 9:45:00 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Grinning jack-o-lanterns, fanciful Frankensteins and dancing skeletons fill the kitchen at Lucy and Macy Willcutt''s house. But the 4- and 7-year-old sisters have nothing to fear. The Cookie Mama has just been hard at play, baking and decorating a fun-filled cast of characters ripe for gobbling up, each as sweet and tasty as the next.
The girls'' mother, Shannon Willcutt, has made dozens of Halloween and autumn-themed cookies this past week, bringing the 2009 grand total on her blog site''s cookie counter to 4,962. That''s right, almost 5,000 cookies made since January of this year -- nearly 500 Care Bears, Star Wars clone troopers, princess castles, baby carriages, clowns and cowboy hats every month. And that''s how Shannon became The Cookie Mama.
Happy at home
The former cost accountant is now a happy stay-at-home mom whose cookie craft allows her the flexibility to maintain a small cottage industry while giving her more time to spend with her daughters and husband, Jason.
"My little cookie business has been such a blessing to me," Shannon said, as Macy and Lucy nibbled on skeleton cookies around the kitchen table Friday. "Cookies have allowed me to continue to network and meet some wonderful people through baking."
It all began in 2008 when others admired the cleverly-decorated treats Shannon bought to birthday parties, to church or to her daughters'' classrooms.
"It started with a few calls for cookies, and then a few more," she recounted. "Jason and my girls have been so supportive of my little cookie habit; it makes all the difference in the world."
A big dose of encouragement came, too, from a friend, Katie McCrary.
"She called me up and wanted me to come see something she had done -- which was setting up my Web site; I had no idea she was doing it! I guess that was what actually got me going and got me ''out there.''
"Jason has been a huge confidence booster in all of this," she continued. "He''s seen how passionate I am about cookies and sharing them with others. Bless his heart, he hears me banging around in the kitchen at all hours of the night and is so patient and never complains. And when I call him to pick up a pizza or fast food on the way home and we have to eat it on a quilt in the middle of the den floor because there are 100 cookies drying on the kitchen table, he''s perfectly happy with it."
Shannon fills many of her orders in the evening.
"Luckily, I''m a night owl and can do most of my cookies at night, after the girls have gone to bed."
But just because their mom does much of the commercial baking after bedtime doesn''t mean the girls aren''t earning cookie credentials, too. They lend a helping hand when Shannon makes cookies for the family. Pre-schooler Lucy likes to pour ingredients and Macy, a student at Heritage Academy, is a handy stirrer. "And I''m the cookie tester!" Macy declared.
Artist at work
Shannon''s sugar cookies are the palette for her artistic decorating. She researched cookie and icing recipes online and tweaked them to suit her tastes and please customers. Using primarily Wilton decorating supplies and a steady hand, she creates cookies ranging from elegant to whimsical for everything from weddings to tailgate parties.
"I''m learning a lot about characters kids like, too -- like Wow Wow Wubbzy. And Barney is still popular, too," she said.
Her cookie shapes have come from multiple online sources, including eBay. For the hard-to-find, she and Jason -- aka The Cookie Daddy -- may go to the drawing board to create a template of their own.
"Jason is my artist," Shannon said of her husband, a commercial and residential designer.
Her most unusual request? A toilet.
While The Cookie Mama currently does not ship cookies, she has made deliveries within the area to hospital patients, ball games and surprise parities. She thoroughly enjoys sharing recipes and ideas with other enthusiasts.
"I think the best reward is just being able to share ''cute food'' with others," said Shannon, who regularly posts photos of her products on her blog site at http://thecookiemama.blogspot.com. "If my cookie designs inspire you, please feel free to use them yourself. I love to share designs and ideas!"
Editor''s note: E-mail reaches The Cookie Mama at [email protected]
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.