There used to be a Christmas Craft Day tradition in our household which involved much drinking and eating, along with some crafting (and a little napping). Unfortunately Koko put the kibosh on such festivities when she sank her fangs into one of the participants...on more than one occasion. That's a tradition we felt we didn't need to carry on: what with the blood and the screaming, it just wasn't the same.
But this year we ended up having an impromptu cookie baking/decorating day (or two). This is the first batch of cookie completed. I have tons more dough in my fridge waiting to be baked up and decorated! This was a fun, albeit laborious, activity.
Lessons learned (these are really notes to myself, you don't have to read them):
1) When storing icing overnight in the piping bags, remove the tips because even when you cover the tips with press 'n' seal, the icing still turns to concrete in the tip. Therefore, probably press 'n' seal over the coupler after removing the tip might be a better plan.
2) Scratch that. Icing left overnight destabilizes. The colours need to be remixed and the texture leave a lot to be desired. In general, flood icing becomes floodier and piping icing becomes flood. In general, overnight, vegan icing held up better than non-vegan icing. Fresh would have been better on day two, especially since this is the fine detail stage. For the record, the vegan icing colours were: white, ice blue (Sugarflair), green (mix of gooseberry and spruce and holly green (Sugarflair). The regular non-vegan icing colours were: grape (Sugarflair), teal (Wilton), cornflower blue (Wilton), red (mix of Christmas red (Wilton), poppy red, claret, paprika and holly green (Sugarflair)).
3) In terms of drying, vegan piping is very solid and dries hard quite quickly. However, with flood icing, the top dries very quickly compared to the bottom; this creates kind of a "skin" that crackles by the time it is completely hardened. In addition, hardening takes longer. The non-vegan icing dried harder, flatter and not quite as shiny. Overall, the non-vegan icing completely hardened faster.
4) The piping texture of the vegan icing was pretty good, but you don't get as much control with it - it isn't as soft, so achieving soft curves and fine detail is difficult, especially on the second day. Unfortunately the vegan white piping dried quite translucently and not as bright white as would have been desirable.
5) Piping non-vegan icing on a vegan flood was a definite no-no; the different properties turned the non-vegan piping into a floody mess. (Example, the red squiggle on the white ornament.)
6) Tweezer-like implement needed for placing dragees, especially the small ones. The white ones are tastier than the silver ones. Medium dragees very useful. Maybe additional colours helpful. You can never have too many dragees on snowflakes or Christmas ornaments.
7) More tips (number 1 and 2) and elastics needed. Perhaps Ateco tips better than Wilton, but the jury's out on this point still. The Ateco tips are much longer, and I've heard that this helps with control.
8) For the vegan icing, must remember to add only the 4 TBSP of egg replacer (but not the water) to the recipe. Then add additional water based on texture. Next time for the regular icing, I will try Antonia74's royal icing recipe (the non-vegan was a standard Bonnie Gordon and the vegan was from my Thanksgiving post).
Addendum: REALLY helpful tips for making beautiful decorated cookies (as well as beautiful examples of same) can be found on Sweetopia.