How to make royal icing sugar cookies, even if you’re not a baker.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, here’s  a creative way to show love to your family — beautifully handcrafted decorated sugar cookies. Or team up with your kiddos in the kitchen for a family baking session!


While living in London, England about 10 years ago, I purchased a cookie decorating book titled “Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits” and dreamed of making beautiful cookies like the photos in the book. I loved looking at all the pretty cookie photos and wondered how hard it really is to decorate sugar cookies with royal icing. Well, I am definitely not a cookie artist, but I decided one Christmas to jump all in and see what this is really like, and how difficult this process is. Here is what I learned, and if I can do it, so can you!

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Getting started — Before you begin, purchase and organize all your supplies you will need. Here is a list of the supplies that I used:

  • mixer (I used my KitchenAid mixer)
  • cookie cutters
  • icing bags/ bottles (I used Wilton)
  • icing tips (I used Wilton size 1, 2, 3, 4)
  • icing color (I used Wilton gel)
  • baking cookie sheet/pan
  • spatula
  • scissors (for cutting icing bags)
  • cellophane/cling wrap
  • parchment paper (I used Wilton brand)
  • roll-n-cut mat (I used Wilton brand), or countertop
  • rolling pin (I used a wooden one)
  • cookie dough and icing ingredients (see recipe)
  • cake tester (I used Pampered Chef), or tooth pick
  • cooling rack

Cookie Dough recipe:

  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
  • 1 C butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 4 C all purpose flour

Royal Icing:

  • 4 lbs powdered sugar
  • 3/4 C meringue powder (I used Wilton brand and purchased at Michaels)
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla (or you can use other flavorings)
  • 1 1/3 C warm water

Let’s Go!


  • In a separate bowl combine salt, baking powder and flour. Set aside.
  • Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time. Beat well between each egg.
  • Add vanilla and mix well.
  • Gradually add the salt, baking powder and flour combination to the creamed mixture.
  • Once mixed well, roll out dough onto floured surface. (I use the Wilton roll-n-cut mat, but parchment paper also works, or clean countertops.) Use a little sprinkle of flour on the surface, and add flour to the rolling pin.
  • Cut into shapes. Unused dough can be “re-rolled” out to make more cut outs.
  • Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
  • Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Once your cookies have cooled, you are ready to decorate! Practice makes “perfect” is the way the saying goes. There are plenty of “how to decorate cookie” videos out there, so take some time to watch and learn tips on decorating with royal icing! It takes patience, but it is so much fun~!

Once the royal icing has hardened, you are ready to package them and share with others! Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wait, what did you say? — How are you communicating?

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19, New International Version, 1986). God gave us two ears and one mouth — could that be a reminder for us to do more listening than speaking? People are social beings and are made to communicate with one another and ultimately process information. However, with differing perceptions conflicts can arise.

If everyone in the world agreed on everything, think about how boring our world would be. With that said, people have different views, opinions, values, and beliefs which can cause conflict in communication. Many people disagree with one another based solely on their culture, background, and where they are from geographically. However, according to Barnett Pearce, coordinated management of meaning can be learned. “It’s learnable, it’s teachable and it’s contagious” (Barnett Pearce, 2014).

I think about the “masked world” we are living in these days and I can’t help but notice how our communication with one another has changed. Sometimes I just don’t understand how we are made to communicate with one another behind a piece of cloth. We lose sight of body languages such as a smile or a grimace. I live in Hawaii and we are [still] under a stay at home order. I get the feeling of being trapped on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Our beaches and parks are shut off and no one is allowed to gather together. Although there are varying views on the Covid_19 pandemic and how our local, state, and federal government have handled the issues, we can all agree that we are creatures of socialization. When communicating with others regarding the “do’s and don’ts” of mask-wearing, people are quick to voice their opinions.

How we go about listening (with an open mind) to others while still staying true to our own beliefs is a balance. Sometimes “agreeing to disagree” is the best way to leave the subject and move on. One recommendation when you have such differences in beliefs is accepting and agreeing with the fact that each person has a very different viewpoint. As Christians, we are told, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). If we choose to follow the truth, the Word of God, we will find solutions on how best to communicate effectively with one another, even with the differences of opinions on wearing a mask, or not. It is up to us to self-reflect on how we are listening to others, and ultimately be aware of our own communication and delivery.

*Journal entry written for my Masters in Communication at Liberty University


Pearce, Barnett (January 29, 2014) Coordinated Management of Meaning [Video]. YouTube.

New International Version Bible, Version. (1908/1983). Thompson chain-reference Bible Indianapolis, IN: Kirkbride Bible.

My First Career: A SAHM


There is so much noise in the world today. So much that you can’t escape… it seems. There are so many “self help” influencers out there today on social media as well as ‘best sellers’ books. Many are spreading positivity and how to better yourself. Many influencers are posting much about “body positivity”, “how to become a boss babe”, how to work in the “corporate world” while also being a great mom, etc. And, hey, hats off to any mom out there who can juggle both a career and being a mom! Much of what we read in today’s society is geared to persuading women how to build a career, get ahead, get more pay!, etc., all the while dismissing the importance of being a mother first. (I know there will be much debate on this subject, but my goal is to encourage other moms to not be afraid of making the decision to stay at home.)

I want to write about “FAMILY” for a minute. Since I basically am from a family and have a family, and I have three kids of my own, I guess you can say I have experience with “FAMILY”. Many of us do.

I want to reach out to the younger couples who are considering starting a family of their own and who struggle with making the decision on child care; who will take care of the children, and who will work. It really is a tough decision to make. Income plays a huge part in a family, and I understand that it can partly also control the narrative.

When I married my high school sweetheart back in 1996 (24 years, yay us!), I had just graduated from college six months earlier. I was ready to jump into the workforce and start my career. Honestly, I told myself that I would never be a stay at home mom. I said that, how insane! I was ready to work and earn a good living….just like my husband.

Fast forward to December 1997, my firstborn came into the world. Everything changed. Not only did my body change so did my mind, and we both decided that I would stay home with our son. (I was actually the lucky one!) Then, 19 months later our daughter was born, and then fast forward 18 more months, our youngest was born. Three children in four years and I was a full-on- stay-at-home-mom! Too bad ‘experienced diaper changer’ couldn’t be added to my resume, cause, man I rocked the diaper changing station!!

My mindset changed for me to become a stay at home mom for two reasons. One, I would basically be working to pay for child care for my three children— so that did not make sense. Two, and most importantly, we decided we wanted to rear our own children. I did not want anyone else to do the job that was given to me by God. We understood some of the financial challenges that we would face by being a one-income household, and we would have to make sacrifices on material things or experiences, but the positives outweighed the challenges.

Why of course times got tricky and tiring with my husband’s work travel schedule. Many times he would fly in from another country, get off a plane, come home and go out to a ballfield to coach, all while being jet-lagged. So needless to say, we were both exhausted at times. But pouring into our children and being present was key and this is the life we choose for our family.

As I reflect back on these early years, I can see that God provided (in many other ways than just financially) for our family and we thank Him for leading us. Looking back, it is now clear how being a staying home mom vs. building a career was more beneficial in the long run. Being able to pour into our children and teach them the Biblical right from wrong will never be taken for granted. We chose/choose to have family meals together, go to church together, pray together, and have fun together.

To all the younger women of today who are facing a decision about becoming a stay-at-home-mom or building a career— Your career can wait, BUT, you can’t get this time back with your children. And you, new mama to be, deserve to rear your kids, teach them the rights from wrongs and instill in them the values that you want for them. Remember, “Children are a gift from God, they are His reward” -Psalm 127:3.

So please don’t let the noises of today’s world confuse you and tell you that you are better off by choosing and building a career. You may have financial sacrifices to make by being the CEO of your home, but the reward is so worth it. You do you, and soak up every minute you can with your children. You will thank yourself in the long run, even if you are behind the career curve. Family (including values and morals) is truly what matters. The years spent pouring into your children are a gift. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Because soon my friend, they will grow up and go off to college.



PS – I realize that family dynamics vary in today’s society. These are my experiences and thoughts based on a traditional family with a mother and father.

How I made a lei from my daily walk in Hawaii Kai.

I know I have said it before, but, I love Hawaii. I love living here (especially since my kids are home!) I am continuously surrounded by such incredible views of the mauka (mountains) and makai (ocean). And since we moved here in December, despite the craziness with covid, I have enjoyed daily walks to reset and take in all the views and fresh air.

I started out walking to get exercise and to spend time with my hubby. On our walks I always noticed all the beautiful plumeria trees and all the petals that had fallen on the ground. Many were fresh and were screaming at me to “pick me up, and take me home!!” So, I did! Now, it’s become a thing in our home where we have beautiful petals we place floating in water to bring joy to our little cozy space.

Hawaii really is a special place and the aloha spirit is real. A lei is a symbol of friendship, love, celebration, honor, and many receive and give them to their family and friends upon arrival to Hawaii. I love greeting my family with one at the airport. It really is a symbol of love, and each time I receive one, even if I never will meet the person who made it, I can still feel the love of the hands who crafted it.

Of course with the quarantine and more time on my hands, I decided to learn to make a lei! Why not? I am by no means a pro it it, but with a little research, I gathered my materials that I had around the home and gave it a try.

Here’s a simple way to make a lei from fallen petals:

Step one: Gather your family and head outdoors for a nature walk. To make one lei, gather 30-50 flowers that have fallen to the ground, in public space (make sure not to infringe on someone else’s property). Be creative with what is blooming in your neighborhood, and try to mix blooms! There are endless possibilities!

Step two: Soak the blooms in cold water to rinse off. And then lay them out to dry off. You may have to toss out a few of the ones that begin to brown and wilt.

Step three: Find string to use such as embroidery thread; dental floss works too! Get a needle that will fit through the center of your petals, and grab a pair of scissors! That’s all you need.

Step four: Thread the needle, tie a knot in the thread, and begin threading the flowers one at a time. Once you get the length you like, then all you need to do is cut the thread and tie ends together! Wa-lah, you have a lei!

They say stop and smell the roses, or in my case, plumeria. I believe that by doing a craft like this, you will also experience the same as I did — calmness, peacefulness, thankfulness, and realize that it really is the simple things in life that are free and allow us to reflect on God’s beauty and all He provides us daily.

If you decide to make one, please let me know how it turned out! This would be a great summer craft for the littles too!

Aloha from Hawaii Kai!



Fear is a liar!

Listening to your father fall to the ground with a massive heart attack — at the age of nine. Running to my aunt and uncle’s home through the woods to get help. Arriving back home watching my brother perform CPR on my dad, while hearing the loud sounds of the ambulance arrive.

That is fear, and that was me.

Fear of not really understanding what was going on in that very moment. Fear can come over you like a storm rolling in, in the middle of the night, pitch black outside, blaring with roaring thunder and crackling flashes of lightning hitting trees. That, was what I was fearful of at the age of nine. Storms — not death.

I was nine when my father died of a sudden heart attack and went to be with the Lord. Before him, I had experienced the death of two grandfathers. I faintly remember those times, but I did understand what it was to lose someone you loved. No one can prepare you for loss. Because loss is something personal. No one can “feel” what you’re are “feeling”. They can understand it, possibly, if they have also lost someone near and dear, but they can not actually FEEL what you are going through. Everyone experiences loss differently. We are all different, because God made us that way.

I grew up in the perfect home with a mother and father and older brother. Heck, in my eyes we were the perfect little family. We ate together, played together, prayed together and went to church every Sunday. We ate lunches at my grandmother’s home every Saturday with my extended family. It truly was the best upbringing any little girl could ask for. My mom worked for a bank and my dad was a lineman for the power company. Good, hard working, American, God loving parents. I was lucky. I was (am) blessed.

I see times changing and there is so much fear in the world. Many times fear is driven, honestly, by not being informed or not relying on what really matters in life (and I realize this could be debatable on what really matters). Of course we are all human which makes us fearful. But there is hope in not fearing things that life throws at you. You can gain peace in knowing that we are told in Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” It seems so simple, yet still so hard. To give it all over to God to let him guide you and your thoughts and to be comforted.

I hope this helps someone who is anxious, fearful, or just worrying about what tomorrow brings. God is so good. I share this with you because there have been many times in my life that fear has crept in, but I know fear is a liar and God is bigger than any of my fears.



Never underestimate a Sunset

Daily Sunset off our lanai. No filter needed.

Is this a dream? Am I really living the Hawaii dream?

Listening to the sound of the Avett Brothers playing in the background — watching another beautiful sunset — breezes blowing my hair as I type, while birds fly by chirping.

If you looked out over the ocean water and mountains, you would never know there was a world wide pandemic happening. Many of my neighbors sitting outside watching the sunset, having dinner on their lanai, laughing, talking on the phone, some even paddle boarding and fishing off the dock, and boats buzzing by — it’s like our own little world over here on this tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Life is still going on. People are adjusting to the new normal of the beaches and parks being partially shut down, having to wear masks when running out to the stores, essential work places and picking up take away dinners; and don’t forget the new social distancing practicing! It is real. Changes have happened.

My nightly entertainment is with my husband and sweet Jack Russell, Boone, watching the sun go down over the mountain. When I wake from this Hawaiian dream, I hope I never forget the wonderful feeling of sitting on my lanai watching every. single. sunset. They are so different each evening. The sky dances to put on its own spectacular color show. The colors change like a painter dipping his paintbrush between purple, orange, pink and yellow. Then, slowly and peacefully, the sun tucks away for the night. In addition to my music playing, the sound of the palm trees are sounds that call for an encore. The swaying of each branch is like a tiny musical instrument on a stage waiting to be heard. They have a voice too, ya know. We just have to be still and listen.

Instead of focusing on some of the more challenging issues due to this pandemic, I choose to see every sunset through the lens of gratitude and blessing. I do not negate seeing and understanding the rest of the world news and I continue to pray each day for my family, our country and our world, and those who are suffering. I know it is out there. I understand it is happening. But one thing that will never change throughout this is that our God is greater than any pandemic.

After all, just like the song, He has the whole world in His hands.

Sunset in Hawaii Kai, No filter needed.

The Should be’s…

The “should be’s” of today… there are so many.

I “should be” in Australia today with my hubby.

My Ash “should be” in Switzerland with her 60 other study abroad students.

My oldest “should be” back in Shepherd University getting ready to graduate college…. and on and on.

We all have our “should be’s”, right? Mine just happen to be first world should be’s. We had OUR plans. The ones WE made. Then something changed all that. Something earth shattering. Something that moved all the earth in a different direction. Some choose panic, some choose defiance, others choose to tune it out, and others choose and keep to themselves. And others fall on their knees and pray. Prayer is powerful y’all. I have seen God move mountains and He is the ONLY one who can heal us and our land. Keep your focus on what really matters these days. This too shall pass and those “should be’s” will come again… one way or another. In the end God is in control. Just let Him be.

As for now, I will reflect on wonderful memories from our recent trip to Switzerland. My husband and I got to spend 10 days with our daughter! Memories last, y’all. Make them. Cherish them!

Beautiful Zurich, beautiful daughter.
Beautiful city of Zurich
Exploring the city with my girl!
Dinner with friends!
View from our room of The Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland.
Skiing Gornergrat, before it was closed off. It was crazy and visibility was zero!
The next day, skiing Zermatt. Beautiful blue skies!
Enjoyed every. single. snowflake. So much, we added another night’s stay!
Walking to see where Ash goes to class every day. Beautiful walk (hike!).
Classes everyday held at Franklin University.
Lugano, you’re beautiful. Thanks for the memories!

We’re empty nesters! Now what?

I can’t believe how time flies. I mean I think back to the days when my husband was forever traveling and protecting America, and I was a stay at home mom with three little babies– being the nurse, chef (ok, that’s stretching it), cleaner (maybe, this too), room mom, creative director of all projects, and travel agent.  But you get the point! I pause now, and think, where did time even go??? All three are in college. Poof! just like that. They flew from the nest. It’s really surreal when I stop and think about time. It’s so precious and we can never get it back.


So now what? No one to really take care of on a daily basis. No piles of laundry (until they come home and dump in front of the washing machine). No more early morning breakfasts to cook and lunches to be packed. No more volcanos to build and tests to help prepare for, and no more back to school nights. (Try attending back to school nights with three kids in the same high school…impossible to meet all those teachers!) And, get this one… no more ball games to sit and watch while either freezing or dying in heat. Let that sink in for a min!

Well, I will tell you what, it’s you and me, hubby. It was us before kids — and it’s now you and me again.  God knows our paths; we choose to follow his will or not. I think it was never random that I had all three of my children by the time I was 29 years old. I also don’t think it was random that they are so close in age. I am embracing this empty nesting as good as I can… even when we are thousands of miles from our children. God had this plan for our family, and I am trusting him with it!

Now let’s go on a hike!

Hanauma Bay, Oahu Hawaii
Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike, Diamond Head photobombing in the background.
Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike

Tips on how to start a business in your spare time.


Landon Lane Candle Co.

So you say you have a passion, and you would love to turn it into a business but you don’t know where to begin? I hear ya, I was the same way! I was always day dreaming and just letting others pass me by while watching their dreams come true.

Stop beating yourself up and roll up your sleeves and get to work. Here are a few tips on how I began Landon Lane Candle Company (from scratch) —

  1. HAVE A VISION— After all, you have to have a vision of what you are trying to turn into a business. Are you an artist who wants to sell your art, or a party planner looking to offer your planning skills to others for a fee, or do you love animals and want extra income helping others take care of their pets? It may just be a side hustle now, but maybe it has potential for more… but you have to have a vision to begin. Write down your vision. Take out a poster board and start brainstorming ideas. Soon, you will start to see your vision on your “vision board.” It’s ok if it is a complete mess (with chicken scratch), the key is to get it down on paper so you can read it all over and soak it all in.
  2. DO YOUR RESEARCH — A little bit of internet surfing goes a long way. I began my candle company with an amazon gift card (thanks, Mom!)! I just purchased a candle making kit to see if I even liked making candles and to see exactly how hard of a process it actually was. Once I was hooked, I researched many suppliers to find answers. I viewed tons of videos over at “YouTube University”. I mean, gah, you can learn a ton from others who are willing to share their passions!
  3. WRITE A BUDGET — Write down all the materials you will need for a start up. Materials to include supplies, marketing materials (another subject!), subscriptions & fees, etc. Remember Rome was not built in a day, so budget for a small start. You can always grow, and besides you don’t want to invest all your money in your side hustle. You are trying to make money, after all!
  4. MAKE A PLAN — GOSH, now this is a tricky part… failing to plan is planning to fail, so you gotta make a plan. Things to consider: Logo – how will you brand your business? Launch date – when will you launch into the public? Marketing – how will you market your business: social media, advertising, blog posts, word of mouth, etc. Banking – how will you accept payment and do you need an EIN number, etc. Don’t beat yourself up if your plans take a fork in the road along the way.  Having a plan helps you reach your goals. Which leads me to my last point:
  5. SET GOALS —  I get it, setting goals is a bit scary. I mean, what if I don’t reach them…then I will be a failure, right… NOPE! That just means you will be learning along the way. And learning brings more knowledge and knowledge is power!  (remember the old Saturday morning School House Rock, “knowledge is power”  — ok, I am showing my age!) But really, setting goals is a good thing and once you begin checking them off, things really will start to fall into place for your new venture.

Spare time, yea right, who has that? We all do, we just have to recognize it and make it work for us instead of it getting away from us. Try to carve out 30 min a day to focus on your dream business. Or carve out an entire weekend, stay in your PJs, sip on coffee and solely focus on your business plan and goals (like I did), and you will be off to a good start. You can do it one small step at a time. Enjoy the process and know that dreams do work if you do the work!

If you are a candle lover, be sure to take a peek at Landon Lane Candle Company


In the studio, Landon Lane Candle Co.


Creative design is part of the planning process at Landon Lane Candle Co.


Products from Landon Lane Candle Co. Amazing fragrances!

I quit my job to become a full time photographer. (insert sigh — and yikes!)

Folks, I will admit… I am scared at the unknown. The unknown of earning a steady paycheck. The fact that I have two kids in college and another starting in a few months….. that, my friends is what you call bleeding money. Money to pay, not only for college, but basically two other homes, and food, and expenses… but for some reason… I decided to step out on a HUGE leap of faith and quit my job to become a full time photographer.

I honestly don’t know where this will lead. I mean, I have been doing photography for many, many years, but it has always been on the side or when I had extra time to fit it in.

I think that life is a crazy adventure. It’s filled with challenges that will push you to your limit. In the challenges you gain strength and guts. Guts to make a change for yourself. Guts to believe in yourself. Guts to get out and get busy. Busy doing what you love. Busy doing what you’re passionate about. I LOVE images. I love the way they make me feel when I look at them. I love the fact that by looking at an image, time just completely stopped. In that moment, through an image, you can cherish it forever. The smiles, the twinkle in the eyes, the hugs and even the laughs that you can see but you can only hear in your mind. So maybe one would call me crazy for quitting my really good job, to go out and “try” to be a full time photographer… I would like to think, rather, that God has prepared me for “such a time as this”.

You see, God places things, people, moments in our paths. He wants us to learn from these opportunities and experiences and He wants us to use it all to glorify Him. He is the one who has created it all for us. But if you are like me, you don’t always see what is right in front of you. The gifts and talents that God has given to you are for you to share. I know that is scary to share a passion, and to put yourself out there. Trust me, I totally get it. I am having a really hard time thinking about “what if no one likes my work…what if I totally fail… what if…, blah blah blah. It is really hard to push all the negative thoughts aside and to focus on how to make it work.

So, quitting my job may not be the smartest thing to do… but one thing that it is doing is making me fight 100 times harder for myself and my family…working each day to strengthen my business.

Turing this passion of mine into a reality is scary, but with God on my side, who can be against me?

Stay tuned on this journey…. either this will work, or it won’t. Now the choice is up to me.


For more information on my photography, please visit my website —

Elisabeth Bryson Photography