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2016: A Year In Review

Although I know it wasn’t everyone’s year in a lot of ways, what with it being an election year (blaaaahhh), and losing a lot of beloved artists (bluuughh), and any number of daily-life struggles we have as humans (blaaargghhh), I feel that for me it was an overall positive year for me.

This time last year, we were kind of struggling with some financial problems that had come to a head a few months prior. We still aren’t where we want to be, but we’ve maintained some good discipline and made great strides in overcoming some of our problem habits, lowering our debt thresholds, etc. But because of where we were at that time, financially, I was really looking for options on making a little extra money. I had just finished off the holiday season, during which I inadvertently set myself on a surprising track:

For Christmas of 2015, I had offered for sale bread, pies, fudge, and royal-icing decorated sugar cookies. These were the pictures I shared to garner interest:

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I sold seven dozen over December, which I still consider a great success!

By this day last year, I had also had my youngest’s birthday party, and decided to make her some cookies, as I had for my son’s first two years prior. I shared these pictures on my personal Facebook page:

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Within a week, a friend had contacted me about making cookies for her daughter’s birthday party later that month.

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And that’s how it all got started. When she asked me to do those cookies, I had to come up with a proper pricing scheme, figure out what my costs looked like, etc. When I set my original prices (which I maintained throughout the year), I was a little afraid of over-charging. The rates I landed on made the cookies more of a self-funding hobby than an actual business, but it seemed about right for where I was at the time. I needed to build up a client base and portfolio, and it allowed me to do so. I felt raring and ready to go!

And then I had no more orders until April. Go figure. I hadn’t made any cookies in the interim, but April was when I made a donation to my MOPS group’s fundraiser yard sale, as well as some samples for Mothers Day. Again, I put pictures into my Facebook album that I had, by that time, started specifically for my cookies. Then I got an order from another friend who liked the sunflowers and dasies I did for the MOPS sale and asked for something to give out for Teacher Appreciation Day.

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Top: MOPS donations; Middle: Mothers Day Samples; Bottom: Teacher Appretiation

Again, nothing until June, when I suddenly got six orders! It never rains, but it pours!! 😉

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That was when things seemed to be getting serious, at least in my mind. That was when I feel like others were taking me as seriously as I was wanting to start taking myself. And that was when I decided to start the blog. I started a Facebook page, an Instagram (I was tipped off by a friend that lots of cookiers use this to share work and drum up business), I updated my old website (my last business venture was perhaps a little more involved than my current life status would allow), and so on. But, regardless, I started the blog as a way to share and talk about my cookies and other art and crafts in a way that was more in-depth than perhaps Facebook or other platforms would allow.

When I started I had a goal in mind: once a week, for one year. I felt like if I could do that, anything was possible. During my last attempt at a blog, I made twelve posts (two of them semi-introductory) from June, 2009, through January, 2011. Not exactly what you’d call consistent. And consistency is so, so important on a project like this. And although I have on occasion posted a day late, or posted that there wasn’t going to be any actual content (“No post today for reasons”), I still got on and made the effort to touch base as close as possible to my intended post date. WordPress has a handy dandy stats page that I try not to peruse too often (knowing how few people actually visit the page can be a bit of a downer), but features a basic calendar showing posts over time.

Here’s that calendar, which as of this posting will update with a little blue box in the first week of January.

2016-posting-activity-copy

I look at that and I feel pretty dang proud of myself. Every week, even if slightly off-target of Wednesday, I posted. Every, single week. For those of you who are counting, that’s 31 posts (including this one).

And while most people won’t necessarily care about the blog stats, here are some interesting stats I’ve worked out regarding my cookies:

Over the course of the year, whether on orders, samples, or personal work, I made at least 95 dozen cookies. Yup. 95 dozen. That’s at least 1,140 individual cookies. I don’t think that counts my cookie boxes, and I’m pretty sure I missed a few here and there. At any rate, that’s a lot of cookies. If each recipe makes 2.5 dozen (roughly), then that means I made about 38 recipes. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but let me break this down further: each recipe takes about two hours to mix up and bake (76 hours). It takes at least an additional hour to mix up and color a batch of royal icing (more if there are more than 3-4 colors being used; 38 hours). During my 2015 Christmas cookie making, I calculated it took me around ten minutes per cookie to actually decorate (I think this number is short for some designs, but let’s call it average minimum; 1,140 cookies x 10 minutes = 11,400 minutes, or 190 hours).

In decorating time alone, I spent  190 hours, or almost eight days, of 2016 on cookies. When you add in baking time (190+76= 266) and royal icing time (266+38=304), my total time spent on cookies last year–minimum— is over twelve and a half straight days.

If I assumed that only half of those cookies took me only two minutes longer to decorate, I’m at thirteen and a half days (and 209 hours/8.7 days in decorating alone).

I’m not really a mathy person, but I do like figuring up some of this stuff, if only so I have a metric for seeing how things will change on this project from year to year. There is also some research that says that to truly be a master of anything, you require 10,000 hours of practice (for those of you counting, that’s 416+ straight days). Only 407.9 days to go before I’m a master decorator! O.o I guess I’m going to have to stay up till 3AM a lot more often…

😉

At any rate, no matter how the numbers add up, all I can say is how grateful I am for everything. I’m grateful for everyone who has ordered cookies from me when we needed a little help (and I just needed to feel like I was doing something to help). I’m grateful for a supportive husband who has been more than encouraging in my efforts. I’m grateful to everyone who pokes their head in here to see what nutty things I’m writing about this week. I’m grateful for it all.

And so, for my first post of 2017, what I really wanted to say in all this rambling was: Thank you.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

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