Avec la Solidarité

Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Regardez Paris aujourd’hui, une semaine après les attaques de l’obscurité et de la haine sur la ville de la lumière et de l’amour.
La ville est lumineux avec plus de lumière et d’amour que jamais, dans les mots de Martin Luther King Jr., leader des droits civiques américains:
“L’obscurité ne peut pas chasser l’obscurité: seule la lumière peut faire que la haine ne peut pas chasser la haine: Seul l’amour peut faire cela.”

Recherchez contenu de relance sur la SLN à venir bientôt.
Anglais / Français traduction de courtoisie Google translate

Look at Paris today, a week after attacks of darkness and hate upon the city of light and love.
The city is bright with more light and love than ever before, for in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., American Civil Rights leader:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Look for relaunch content on SLN coming soon.
English/French translation courtesy Google translate




Lily Sarah Grace Fund First Annual Gala

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By Linda T. Kennedy

If one could give an emotional analogy for silvering, an early 19th century manufacturing process that turned glass into mirrors, it could be the First Annual LilySarahGrace (LSG) Fund Gala Sat., Oct. 25, 2014, Jack Studios, New York, N.Y.

In this case, the “silvering” was 300 guests joining Matthew Badger, LSG founder, and LSG Co-Founder Abby Ballin, as they released “You Can’t Memorize This,” a collection of drawings from  visual and performing artists. The book includes 38 original celebrity drawings and is part of LSG’s first large fund-raising campaign, “Color Outside the Lines.”  

The campaign and book is turning tragedy into triumph for Badger and Ballin after losing Badger’s daughters, Lily, Sarah and Grace in a Stamford, Connecticut house fire Dec. 25, 2011. The gala reflected 3 years of purpose-driven hard work by Badger, Ballin, LSG Fund teachers and supporters. Childhood zeal, compassionate love, creativity and passion for the arts glistened from the studio’s walls and illustrated LSG’s mission to provide underprivileged students with arts-infused, inquiry-based education. The celebration followed a successful Kickstarter campaign (see “One for the Money”) ending the day before the gala.

“The ‘Color Outside the Lines’ gala was a huge success, thanks to the amazing people that came out to support the cause and who lent a hand throughout the planning process,” says Robert Cambria, executive director, LilySarahGrace Fund. “The space was a gorgeous, pristine, all-white space. And in addition to the drawings, murals spread across the walls which were composite images of Lily, Sarah and Grace.”

LSG also enlarged three drawings from actors Johnny Knoxville and Naomi Watts, and singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright and hung them on the gallery walls for people to color on. “We had a thousand Sharpie markers in a bucket and people could just come in and grab colors and just draw, color or write notes. Some people just wrote really sweet notes like ‘keep up this work,’” says Cambria, who described the event as a “massive undertaking” for Ballin, and gala co-director and author Periel Aschenbrand.

“They were really the creative masterminds behind the event, and they spent almost every waking moment of the past 3 months putting it together, along with a host committee of more than 15 people, the celebrity artists who donated works and gala sponsors Epoch Films, Sharpie, Belle Fleur, and Helen Ficalora. They all worked to make sure everything went smoothly and was taken care of in time.”

Honoring LSG Heroes

LSG also planned the event to honor actress and talk show host Whoopi Goldberg, Donorschoose.org Founder Charles Best and teacher Hans Tullman, an LSG AIIBL (Arts-infused, Inquiry-based Learning) grant recipient from Bakersfield, Calif.

“We wanted to honor Whoopi and Charles because of the impact that they have had on LSG since day one,” explains Cambria. “Matt met Whoopi when he was on ‘The View,’ when LSG first started, and she also hosted our very first fundraiser, LilySarahGrace on Broadway.” Besides winning numerous awards and receiving acclaim for her work in film, television and theater, Goldberg is known for her humanitarian efforts on behalf of children and other causes and charities.

Like Badger, Goldberg is dyslexic. Badger’s daughters were also dyslexic and he could identify commonalities in them, himself and other creatives like Goldberg. It fueled his LSG mission and Goldberg hooked onto it. “Goldberg has been a huge support to us, and we just wanted to acknowledge that and thank her,” says Cambria.

Goldberg, filming on location in Spain, sent a video speech for the gala. “I just want to thank everybody for giving me this wonderful award, the Lily Sarah Grace ‘Color Outside the Lines’ award,” she said. “It’s so amazing to be here, and be a dyslexic, and find that there are lots of people like me and that you are celebrating folks who do ‘Color Outside the Lines.’ So I just want to say thank you so much and send you all my best. I wish I could be with you.”

Best, a former history teacher, committed his own organization, Donorschoose.org to work with LSG from its conception. In 2000, Best started DonorsChoose.org to help teachers petition for donations for their classrooms and students. Now half of all public schools in the U.S. have had at least one teacher post a project to DonorsChoose.org. “We would not have reached the number of students we did in our first year if wasn’t for Charles and Donorschoose,” says Cambria.

Tullman was honored at the event for best representing the purposes and practices of the new LSG AIIBL grant last year. “That grant is for $1,500, and Hans’ project blew us away. It was the first semester that we had put the grants out with a complete list of criteria meant to highlight and promote AIIBL,” explained Cambria. “With the grant, his students made films about saving the environment, and through each step they showed so much understanding and such a deep level of engagement, which is really the most important thing that a student can have when it comes to their learning.”

A Lot of Sweet, A Bit of Sorrow

The gala guests, including LSG Ed Council members and celebrities, applauded the honorees with Badger and Ballin, and the evening was positive, light and fun like any party celebrating children should be, says Cambria. But it was also infused with tender moments that held guests to remembering why they were there.

Actress Natasha Lyonne spoke to the importance of Badger and Ballin’s work, explaining her life wouldn’t have played out the same if it weren’t for the arts. And Badger and Ballin also acknowledged their efforts would not be possible without the generosity and dedication from the sponsors, volunteers and friends. “It was an emotional part of the evening,” says Cambria. “As well as when Wainwright ended with an absolutely beautiful and moving rendition of Hallelujah.”

Ballin says that while they are grateful the new campaign launched successfully, it’s difficult for her to consider events like Saturday night’s gala as a silver lining in their lives after losing Lily, Sarah and Grace. “It’s hard for me to say there is a silvering in all of this, although it is a beautiful phrase and has great meaning. I do find that I use the term bittersweet often when talking about LSG, the work that we all are doing there is so meaningful and truly sings to my soul, but I know that the majority of us wouldn’t be doing this work or even know each other if the girls were still here…”

But if they were still here, it would have been their kind of party says the girl’s father, Badger. “The event was awesome and we had a really great time. With 300 people, it was a giant love party and the girls would have adored it.”


“Color Outside the Lines”

Facts and Figures from the LilySarahGrace Fund

First Annual Gala:

Premier of the Book “You Can’t Memorize This”:

38 personal drawings by celebrities in the visual and performing arts
500 initial copies printed to sell at the campaign launch gala

  • 2nd printing anticipated with additional drawings from other artists

Nearly half the books are already sold.

Purchasing information is online, at: http://lsgshop.org

How many students could benefit?
Kickstarter funding: 21,000

Sales from all books = 45 stepping stone LSG project grants at $450 a piece.

Average class size in the U.S.: 25[1]

If only one classroom benefits from each grant, a minimum of 1,125 students benefit from projects funded by the “You Can’t Memorize This” book.
(Most grant applicants teach multiple classes and propose projects for 1 stepping stone grant to benefit many students.)

Greatest amount of students served by 1 LSG stepping stone grant to date: 600 students

What else is in the book?

Drawings by Lily, Sarah and Grace on the front and back inside covers

There are 3 sections in the book for each Badger girl.

Matt wrote his personal memories about each of his daughters:

He talks about Lily overcoming her fears.

He recounts Sarah’s charisma and draw.

He recalls Grace’s absolute confidence
and shares about his love for the girls.

The Gala:

  • Pippi Badger, fund-raiser extraordinaire (see “One for the Money”) wore a purple tulle frock, designer unknown.
  • Sharpie provided personalized LSG markers for guests to color on the walls.
  • Celebrity-art glazed sugar cookies were served next to hors d’oeuvres and an open bar.
  • Rufus Wainwright, award-winning American-Canadian singer-songwriter, composer, who performed at the gala, also sang “Somewhere over the Rainbow” at Lily’s, Sarah’s and Grace’s funeral.
  • The font used for the “Color outside the Lines” phrase on campaign materials is a font made from samples of Lily’s, Sarah’s and Grace’s own handwriting.

 To learn more about the LilySarahGrace Fund, see the LSG series in On Our Watch 



[1] Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. (2011, July 1). Issues A-Z: Class Size. Education Week. Retrieved Month Day, Year from http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/class-size/

One for the Money

Pippi Badger

Pippi Badger

Lily’s Dog Raises Funds for LSG

By Linda T. Kennedy
Editor’s note: this is the third story in a 3-part On Our Watch special series

Nearly three years since Badger and Ballin started the LSG Fund to memorialize Lily, Sarah and Grace, they are finally in a place where they can look back and see where they’ve been and where they’re going with the project. As of now, LSG has helped 160,000 public school students, granting more than a million dollars in supplies to teachers throughout the country.

LSG touches classrooms not only with resources, but with AIIBL, a new learning model and professional development program. But it can’t be said that all of this exceeds Badger’s and Ballin’s initial expectations; when they started LSG, there were none beyond actively channeling the love for their girls to other children.

“To be honest, we didn’t have any expectations, you can’t, I mean when you’re living in a nightmare it’s hard to dream,” says Ballin. “So it was basically saddle up and take the leap! We had to stay in the now because looking back or forward was far too painful.”

Staying in the “now” also meant relentless drive for Badger. “The first year I threw myself into it on an obsessive level — it was a full-time commitment,” recalls Badger. “My abundance of love for the girls was poured into LSG and it gave me great purpose again.” And when Badger and Ballin arrived at the first school on the Bus Tour, Dawes Elementary School in Chicago, Ill. they saw, for the first time, what their love for Lily, Sarah and Grace looked like in the form of being transferred to others.

“That was really the pivotal moment of this journey for both Matt and myself,” recalls Ballin. We saw the joy on those kid’s faces and the empowerment we gave to that teacher and we knew we were doing something special and the presence of the girls was so very overwhelming. When we continued on and met more and more remarkable teachers and their precious students, it connected us to them, to each other, to this world. It was powerful.”

Emily Lopez, LSG Ed Council leader, says the connections came naturally because Badger has a knack for identifying talent. So it’s no wonder that eventually, Badger and Ballin identified another key figure to represent and drive LSG forward in its 4th year: Pippi Badger, Lily’s 6-pound maltipoo puppy who joined the family August 2011, for Lily’s 9th birthday.

6 Pounds of Mega-Purpose

Pippi made her first appearance as a spokesperson for LSG Sept. 24, 2014 in a Kickstarter video You Can’t Memorize This,” LSG’s first large fund-raising campaign.

The video illustrates, from Pippi’s perspective, the role Lily, Sarah and Grace played her life. Pippi also explains how she is helping further the LSG education mission with the book “You Can’t Memorize This.” Several music, film, television and stage artists answered LSG’s call to help with the book by contributing a drawing of their own. And supporter’s endorsed the idea by pledging over $20,000 (LSG’s funding goal) to the Kickstarter project. LSG plans to publish the book with the Kickstarter funds.

“The compilation of drawings is based on the concept that all great thinkers think outside the box,” says Ballin, creative director of the campaign. “LilySarahGrace has enlisted some of the best, brightest and most unique thinkers of our generation to raise awareness for arts infused education in underfunded public elementary schools. We handed artists from a number of different disciplines a sketchpad and a marker and asked them to create a simple line drawing.”

Artists Bruno Mars, David Copperfield, Jennifer Aniston, Julianne Moore, Justin Theroux, Laura Dern, Lionel Richie, Naomi Watts, Tina Fey, Tom Arnold, Whoopi Goldberg, Will Ferrell; fashion designer, Diane Von Furstenberg; sculptor, Carole Feuerman; photographers, Laurie Simmons and Mark Seliger; chef, Mario Batali; painter and illustrator Sage Vaughn and many more personalities representing the visual and performing arts returned the sketchpad to LSG with their personal drawings.

The book also includes a drawing by jeweler Helen Ficalora, who designed the LilySarahGrace Eye Charm from one of Sarah’s own drawings. Ficalora is donating 25 percent of sales from the charms to LSG. Hers, and all the other drawings will be displayed at LSG Fund’s First Annual Gala, Oct. 25, 2014, Jack Studios 601 West 26th Street, New York City. Rufus Wainwright is slated to perform during the gala.

PippiBags (1)

Pippi Oct. 24, 2014 as the Gala swag bags were packed.

Becoming “Triumphant Survivors”

Despite the enormous talent the LSG team has recruited to further its mission and the tall accomplishments in such a short period, grief has been a constant undercurrent in Badger and Ballin’s journey. And they candidly acknowledge that grief will always accompany their efforts.

As a matter of fact, Badger says he really didn’t take time to grieve after losing his girls; he immediately immersed himself in LSG and now, still faces that personal work. “So, it is [the grief] still going on for me, it’s very painful and I am still very raw from it,” says Badger. But when you have this much grief, you can do something with it or fall into the grief and be shattered by it,” he says. “I decided to do something with it.”

That is what a “triumphant survivor” looks like, says Alan Pederson, executive director, national office, The Compassionate Friends (TCF) – the largest organization for bereaved families in the world. Founded in England in 1969, TCF was established in the United States in 1972, with not-for-profit incorporation in 1978, under which provision the organization’s more than 650 local Chapters also operate. TCF also operates as separate entities in 30 countries around the world.

“There are a small portion of people out there who eventually come through their grief as what we call “triumphant survivors,” explains Pederson. “They literally take a tragedy so horrible, such as this one, and they take the skills God gave them or what they feel their child would have loved and they will accomplish incredible things. And this is what’s happening here. Triumphant survivors are rare, and he [Badger] is rare and then to do it at the level that their doing this is just amazing.”

One might easily see all the things that the LSG Fund is accomplishing as silver linings in their tragic story, but Badger and Ballin’s grief is still so acute and raw, it’s difficult for them to describe it that way. And Abby refers to the good in their journey as something stemming from an ongoing process; “silvering.”

LilySarahGrace = Love

“I would say the silvering is seeing Lily, Sarah and Grace bringing joy back into classrooms and giving other children that gift of digging deeper into their creative minds,” says Ballin, who with Badger, primarily attributes LSG’s success to the outpouring of love of friends, family, the community and between each other.

“The power of love is, well, powerful,” says Ballin. “I don’t know how I’ve gotten here, how I am even able to get out of bed most mornings; there is a lot of denial, but mostly there is a love and commitment and the overall underlining mantra of what would the girls want me to do? And if I ask that question whenever I am lost it usually leads me to the right place. LilySarahGrace for me is all about love, my love for the girls, my love for Matt, and that love spreads to all these teachers and children that need to feel supported in school.”

Badger says his greatest silvering “yet to come” may be that someday, he could become another parent’s silver lining in their own tragedies. “LilySarahGrace is a silver lining of the tragedy, however, I personally think this has changed my perspective in life and I will continue to look for other ways that I can help and create meaning from this tragedy. But right now, it’s LilySarahGrace.”

Pederson, who eventually found his work at TCF following the loss of his own daughter in a car accident, August 2011, says there are many silver linings ahead for Badger and Ballin; they just can’t see them yet. “Our kid’s left us the silver linings — the gift of their love placed them ahead of us but it’s our job to find them,” he says. “But he’ll look back and realize that that work they’ve done was one of the main contributors to the healing that will eventually come. There will be little measures of healing that will come and come and then one day, he’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, am I glad I did this.’”

AIIBL to Move Forward

Healing, Pederson says, begins with helping and talking and sharing our losses, expressing the love – all things Badger and Ballin did since those first days after their loss. “Life does get better from that lowest point and it can get better and better for some people and I believe that’s where these folks are going.”

Badger and Ballin are now looking forward to seeing AIIBL professional development expand and continue to create partnerships with educators, foundations, and other funds to “super-size the movement.”  In the meantime, just as parents let go of their maturing children, Badger is now shifting from his original LSG role from working on the grassroots level to focusing on funding as chairman.

But the idea that children, like Badger’s own Lily, are now overcoming learning challenges in her memory and her sisters’—that thousands more will have a promising future—is sustaining Badger in his loss and grieving process. And just like proud parents talking about their grown children, Badger talks about AIIBL with energy and hope for it’s future. He makes it clear his heart is still deeply invested in what is happening in the classrooms.

“I am super happy about it and I love all the people that are involved with it,” says Badger. “All the teachers we work with are so like-minded – wonderful, dedicated, lovely people. They really work very hard every day. The love for children may explain why people give their time, energy and resources to LSG. I adore kids, and why would anyone want anything but the best for them?”

 “What we learn with pleasure, we never forget.” –Alfred Merceir


From Three to Thousands

Father Answers Cruel Blow with Educational Mission  

By Linda T. Kennedy 

Editor’s note:

The Stamford Connecticut house fire that took the lives of Matthew Badger’s children Lily, age 9, and twin sisters Sarah and Grace, age 7, happened Christmas morning 2011. The Silver Lining News online relaunch was still just a dinner-table concept then.  With the rest of the world, we watched that Christmas Day news with shock, disbelief and profound sadness. And then we said, “Watch: something amazing is going to result from this. And we should try to make it our first story.”

Dear Readers, we watched.
Now, here is that “something amazing.”

In a three-part series posted each day following our launch, read about how profound loss and the memory and love of three little girls is changing the face of education in schools countrywide.

As Matthew Badger puts words to losing his three young daughters in a house fire nearly three years ago, one can hear the unmistakable hollow echo attached to them – even as he pauses, you can hear it. It sends one’s mind into a mental scramble for any words to offer that can fill the empty space, but every word falls like a coin hitting the bottom of a deep well and only amplifies the emptiness there. And the desolation in Badger’s voice tells you that he is keenly aware of it.

“With my loss I was left with very little purpose. Being a father to the girls was the center foundation of my life and gave me joy, unconditional love and tremendous focus. With the sudden removal I lost all meaning to my life,” Badger reflects. “You hear people say nothing is worse than losing your children, but it’s more than that, it’s really quite isolating.”

Standing on this island of horrific loss with Badger and the girl’s families is Abby Ballin, Badger’s girlfriend. Lily, Sarah and Grace had recently bonded with Abby as part of their family, says Badger, and things couldn’t have been better for them. Ballin, he says, developed a deep love for the girls and in her own grief, pined for answers.

Breaking the Sound of Silence

In the first hours and days following that unthinkable event, it was the conversations with family and friends that held them up, recalls Badger. “We talked a lot after it happened,” he says. “It was all of the love and talk about our girls that helped us survive. We talked about Lily, Sarah and Grace and our love for them, their love for us; we talked about their talents and challenges.”

Ballin’s grief worked as creative energy when talk turned into collaboration. “I knew we had to do something [to honor them],” says Ballin. “I didn’t know what that something was, and neither did Matt. I would throw out suggestions, a park, a scholarship, a statue, a foundation, etc. I guess it was survival mode kicking in, not knowing what to do, but knowing we couldn’t just do nothing at all.”

Certainly, for all the energy and love Badger channeled towards his daughters “nothing” was definitely not an option. He knew just three things: he wanted to help other children, he wanted it to be in the classroom and he wanted his energies to benefit impoverished children who are less fortunate than his daughters were.

When he reflected on the girls and their education, he realized how important the arts were to them – Lily, a dancer and poet; Sarah, an expressive, social force; and Grace, a painter. And he recalled one teacher in particular, Amie Schindel, who taught Grace in Kindergarten, and decided that the “something” would include bringing “Amie” to every child in the country.

Where “The Silvering” Begins

“After weeks of indescribable sorrow, the dark cloud of grief cleared for a brief moment, enough time for Matt to land on what he knew we needed to do for the girls – for us.” The couple would start the LilySarahGrace (LSG) Fund, a non-profit organization based in New York, NY, to grant art supplies to teachers throughout the country working in impoverished public schools.

LSG would not only celebrate Lily, Sarah and Grace’s lives, but help maintain the kind of learning in schools that they thrived on. It would be a vehicle to supplement educator’s budgets and nurturing other children like his own. “Witnessing him in that moment was like something from another world, maybe it is my poor memory or my vivid imagination, but it was like a light was shining on him as he stood in our kitchen and in that moment, with all my heart, I believed that he had found the answer,” recalls Ballin. “Coming from a background in the arts myself this too was very important to me.”

At the start of 2012, substantial federal budget cuts were looming to affect programs and teacher’s jobs in arts and special education, so the timing was right for an organization like LSG. Knowing many schools lacked art funding before additional budget cuts, Badger saw it as a pending tragedy for children, especially since he believes his daughters enjoyed school primarily because of arts-based education opportunities.

“Art in the schools is usually funded by parent/teacher associations, and in some schools, families do not have the income to contribute towards it,” Badger explains. “So when you go to a school in areas that have wealth, and it’s filled with art, that’s because the parents are paying for it. But in the outlining areas of New York City, for instance, it’s a different situation. There’s no funding coming in for supplying the arts – and [consequently] all the [art] teachers have been let go.”

And educational budget cuts in general, have always been a sore spot with parents and educators, including during the Great Recession. So you could essentially say that in this instance, Badger and Ballin set out to be two parent figures representing many throughout the country with LSG.

No Holds Barred

Badger and Ballin left their day jobs (as television director and film stylist, respectively) and within the first few months of the project, dedicated all of their time and resources towards the developing the organization. After defining LSG’s mission, they launched a media campaign to raise awareness of the project. Badger visited Good Morning America, The View and The Katie Couric Show and even though his grief was still very fresh, unbearable, he shared how he would channel his loss into helping other children.

“Ultimately, Matthew Badger’s healing will be when he walks into a classroom that has been funded by this monument that we’ve created for my children,” he told Good Morning America. “And if we are able to do that then Lily, Sarah and Grace have done it – it’s beautiful, it’s absolutely beautiful.”

Badger saw that start to materialize quickly. Within just weeks after the television appearances, he and Ballin pulled their creative connections together and lite up Broadway to raise the first funds for the organization. LSG hosted Whoopi Goldberg, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Juliane Moore, Eric Bogosian, Sir Ken Robinson, and 60 local children who performed dance and music. Every teacher that taught Lily, Sarah and Grace were on stage in the 42nd St., sold-out theater to greet 500 guests and launch LSG’s mission in an evening of celebration.

The first school supplies were delivered to classrooms within a few months following the kick-off fundraiser, and Badger and Ballin left for a coast-to-coast bus tour to see LSG in action in the classrooms. “Abby and I traveled the country visiting Chicago, Louisville, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Arizona and California,” recalls Badger. “In each classroom, we filmed the projects LSG funded.”

Badger transferred his experience from directing television commercials to interviewing the teachers. He produced “The Language of Art” and launched it with the LSG website, where donors could also learn about Lily, Sarah and Grace.

“That First year, Abby and I moved on by completely throwing ourselves into this fund,” Badger says. “I worked on it on an obsessive level and it got us through those first months.” The bus tour, and the year, ended with the memory of three – Lily, Sarah and Grace – working in the interest of thousands.

And LSG’s light in the coming year would grow even brighter, beyond Badger’s and Ballin’s initial goals for it. It would take on an entirely new life of its own infused with the expertise and leadership of a group of teachers who would redefine LSG as an innovator for tomorrow’s education models.

Read this continuing series tomorrow:
Lily Sarah Grace Fund
Making Art the Heart of Learning


One For the Money
Lily’s Dog Raises Funds for LSG

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Maggie, and Other Happy Accidents

IMG_8874 Maggie

RubySnap Maggie cookies

How a Self-Taught Baker Booms in the Business

7 min. read 

By Candace Little

Tami Steggell, proprietor of RubySnap Bakery in Salt Lake City, Utah, says she is constantly experiencing “happy accidents”: cookies with the tastiest flavor combinations resulting from experimenting with ingredients that are foreign to the typical cookie. Have you ever met up with dried mangos and chocolate in a citrus cookie dough, or a cinnamon cookie with a mint milk chocolate center? You will at RubySnap – under the names “Viviana” and “Margo,” respectively.

And there’s others. Like Zoey, a blueberry lemon chia with a fresh-squeezed lemon glaze, and Autumn, made of roasted butternut squash, with a spiced mascarpone, topped with a hazelnut and dusted with cinnamon sugar. It’s the “cookie of the month” for October. Upon creation, Steggell christens all her cookies with popular female names from the 1940s and 1950s to match their individual and unique “cookie personalities.”

It’s a tradition since Steggell opened her doors in 2008 to sell original, gourmet fresh cookies and frozen-to-bake-at-home cookie dough balls. The cookies are widely known now, not only by Salt Lake fans but to cookie emulators in England as well. And just walking into Steggell’s store is a recipe for unregretted indulgence, especially since you won’t find every recipe in-house at RubySnap every day.

While Steggell has invented 56 cookie recipes, she currently offers only 41 of them to the public. Some have either been discontinued for a time, or are on hold for the future. But each one has been thought up and created by Steggell–some of which she says have been easier than others to perfect.

Apple Cookie Turned Strawberry Peach

Steggell had never tasted an apple crumb pie cookie, but it sure sounded delicious, so she set out to make one. “The trick with apple is to get the flavor to pop and stand out without too much manipulation or enhancements,” Steggell says. “Every attempt to make a lovely apple cookie failed because all the flavor would evaporate off in the baking process, leaving a fairly boring average cookie in the wake. So after several attempts I gave up on apple and moved on to strawberries.”  

Steggell is a self-taught baker, and so having something not turn out the first time is something she’s used to – in fact, she says these “happy accidents” are stepping stones for something greater to take place. Her next version of the cookie used dried strawberries, with a dough rolled in graham cracker crumbs–a stretch for Steggell, who typically does not add packaged goods to her cookies.

“After several attempts, I introduced this dried strawberry cookie to the public in 2009 despite my hesitation,” Steggell says. “The public liked it, but I was sorely embarrassed! I likened my creation unto a packaged product. Not my market! Not my idea of amazing! So I pulled it. Then it occurred to me, September peach season! There is no law saying I have to use apples just because it is also apple season.”

Steggell went at it again, this time using both fresh strawberries and fresh peaches in the dough. “When the fresh fruit bakes, it percolates and creates an airy and light cake-like cookie that is fresh and clean and collapses in your mouth,” Steggell says. Next, she says, was to imagine what the frosting would be like to give it eye appeal. She found her inspiration while enjoying the local fresh Slide Ridge Honey and chevre from Tony Caputo’s in Salt Lake City.

“The next evolution was to make a honey goat cheese frosting for the top and celebrate it all by topping off the cookie with a fresh strawberry,” Steggell says. “[This was] such a happy accident, because we now boast to the public a uniquely different and completely original cookie named “Maggie”: a fresh strawberry peach with a honey goat cheese frosting.”

Steggell didn’t stop with Maggie. She revisited her original idea about a year later and created “Dani”–a delicious apple crumb pie cookie. She kept the apple’s flavor by keeping it on the outside of the dough. Dani is a vanilla bean snickerdoodle covered with freshly picked apples and a traditional crumb pie topping. Two cookies for the price of one? Yes, please.

The Architectural Design of Cookies

Steggell’s happy accidents don’t just happen during the baking processes. She was actually a practicing architectural designer before she came into the bakery biz as a profession. So, you could say even the bakery itself came about by chance.   

That’s because architecture sparked her creative juices in the kitchen as well, but she kept her cookie and chocolate confectionery recipes a secret in hopes of opening her own bakery one day. But it was just a dream, until it became a necessity. “My industry was undergoing some rough times after 9-11 and frankly I was working much too hard for far too little income,” Steggell says. “So I jumped ship and became a stay at home mom. Alas! A modern family struggles without two incomes, so I set a sail to find a solution and then I said to myself, ‘Self! You have a lot of good cookie ideas. People claim they like them. Take a chance!’ So I did. I took a conservative chance and it worked very nicely.”

It worked nicely from the beginning and is a roaring success today. Steggell and her team sells approximately 30,000 dozen cookies per year out of her retail store (that represents 140,000 pounds of dough). And her ovens are baking more than 200 dozen cookies per day.

A Bigger Game, a Better Name

Another happy accident along RubySnap’s path included a name change – something many companies do, but not always because they are forced to do it by  big corporations. But Pillsbury filed a case against the bakery, then called “My Dough Girl,” for copyright infringement, claiming her shop’s name was too close to their trademarked “Pillsbury Dough Boy” character. Steggell refers to this as “the trademark accident,” and says it is the best happy accident yet.

“This one was a gift,” she says in retrospect. “Someone wants to take your name away!? It is shocking at first.  But in the end it can be the best back-handed compliment that you earn. It means to someone you are a threat, that someone doesn’t want to lose business to you. [It’s] part of the beauty of free market enterprise. Competition either forces us to be better, or point fingers. Let us all choose to be better.”

And that’s precisely what Steggell did. She even opened up her new naming process to the public, encouraging them to suggest ideas. Doing this, she wanted to draw on her original connection to attaching pin-up girl names to her cookies. That originated from the concept her cookies are “natural beauties,” curvy and made with all natural ingredients, but with imperfections too—similar to the pin-up girls of the 1940s and 1950s.

Pin-up girls were popular in the 1940s and 1950s, during the time female servicewomen were called “fly girls.” That’s how she came up with her first business name; dough girl was a spinoff of  “fly girl,” because Stegell’s cookies were “dough girls.”

“We wanted to combine a female name and a phrase from the 1940s to create our company name that sounded like a call name of a female flyer from WWII.  For example, LillyTango,” explains Steggell. She came up with about 350 names.  She finally decided on RubySnap. “Ruby signified our corporate color and also became the new face and voice of our logo,” Steggell says.

“Ruby the color and name, now turned our logo into a mascot with a voice to talk to the fans on social media. Snap was reflective of our personality and ‘sass-o-frass,’ as we call it. We want to present ourselves as happy, spunky, fun, and playful. The real intent was to stay away from food references, [but] unbeknownst to our clueless subconscious, the public immediately thought we were making a play off the gingersnap,” Steggell says with a laugh. “Oh well, we are in love with our name and glad we settled upon it. We feel it encapsulates our branding to the fullest.”

Steggell says she learned a lot from her renaming experience. “My original name wasn’t that unique, it did not set me apart as distinctively different or inventive,” Steggell says. “The gift of controversy pushed me to set myself, company, and branding apart from the norm and rise above average. It’s like exercise, it’s not always enjoyable, but it’s really good for you!”

That’s something to keep in mind when you meet the rest of the happy, spunky, fun, and playful cookie “personalities” at RubySnap. And when the shop assistants cut you a full-quarter slice of any cookie sample you wish, just for polite introductions.

Candace Little is a business magazine editor, turned mom//food editor. She lives, bakes and eats in Salt Lake City with her husband and two kids. 

RubySnap Dani cookies

RubySnap Dani cookies

Injured in Action

032035617-portrait-disabled-us-military-Over 52,000 service men and women have been wounded in action, according to the U.S. Department of Defense casualty website. And 970,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans’ disability claims are registered with the V.A., according to costsofwar.org. We explore stories, like this one, in our Hot Topics Section COMING SOON.

Discovering Lois

3 min. read 

By Candace Little 

All five-feet-two-inches of me tried out for the high school basketball team. After a week of proving myself, I ran through the basement halls of my high school thrilled that my name was on the roster. Practice was hard, I went through a series of bad coaches and good coaches, and I worked my guts out. One time, I stayed after practice for two hours just shooting free throws. It practically took over my entire life, but I figured basketball was giving me something, too.

But I didn’t always feel like my dedication, sweat and stress was worth it. All five-feet-two-inches of me sat on the bench game after game. When I did get playing time, I wasn’t used to the pressure, quick decisions, and tall girls.. Over time, I improved, and gained experience I couldn’t have gained anywhere else, but my part of the bench was still kept very warm.

After three years on the team, my coach came to my home, sat on my couch, and asked me if I would like to be “team manager” the next year. Really? Be a water boy? I don’t think so. She didn’t have to tell me I was cut from the team and I never checked the list. Instead of hours of basketball, I started watching a Superman TV drama, and realized for the first time that Lois Lane was a journalist.

I also took up tennis that summer, made it onto the team, played doubles with a freshman, and all five-feet-two-inches of me placed second in the state tournament my senior year. Sad I wasn’t playing basketball still? A little. Sad I had learned to play tennis, had a spot on a fun, new team and felt rewarded after every match? Nope, not at all.

Then came college. As a Lois-Lane-in-training, my heart was not actually set on writing news (I thought I’d fit in better on the other side: public relations). After graduation, I accepted a position at a mainstream communications firm, and like my days on the basketball court, worked my guts out. And, like my days on the basketball court, they were also cut short by the powers above me.

Knowing the flipside to being kicked off the team, I figuratively donned my tennis skirt and took state — I called the largest business magazine in Utah and accepted a part-time internship. All five-feet-two-inches of me became a full-fledged journalist and even an associate editor in about two years. Yeah, it was definitely a personal record.

My silver lining story is not as much an instance or a single realization, but more of a theme throughout my life — and really, isn’t it throughout everyone’s? I wanted to share this string of events with you, the readers of this publication, because my last day on the basketball team gave me the perseverance I needed to eventually succeed as a journalist, and my last day as a public relations professional was really my first day of practice for writing for The Silver Lining News. I just didn’t know it yet.

Working my guts out, researching, discovering, writing, designing and building relationships with noteworthy characters is now a part of me. And for that I am grateful and excited to call myself a journalist.