The 2013-2014 holidays brought about some unexpected life changes. The big one: my husband and I are going through a separation. Sometimes you get comfortable thinking things will always stay the same, and then you get flipped on your head. I hadn't prepared for this even a little bit, but it's a reality I'm facing with different emotions and strength every day. The details are our business, though I will say there's no real "bad guy," and the decision to separate is a consequence of incompatibility, not wrongdoing. But it still hurts, and it's still a process.
When I started this blog I was on a journey of health and wellbeing, and learning to express myself with food. The inspiration tapered off when things got busy with work, and in June I stopped writing altogether because things were hard all over. I was too exhausted to write. Normally when I'm feeling down, I choose not to write openly or post to social media (so I don't say anything I'll regret later), which sounds fine and polite, until you realize that I missed a lot of days in 2013.
Now, a year later, I just turned 30 and I'm packing to move into an apartment of my own. Even though this has been a very hard change so far, I'm trying to stay positive, and looking forward filling the new living space with good vibes and things that make me happy.
Future box fort?
I wasn't sure if/when I'd return to this blog, but maybe writing here will help me cope with my feelings. Maybe strict silence isn't always the healthiest response to pain or change. Renewing my passion for kitchen adventures is something I wanted to do anyway, but feels extra important now in light of these massive changes. I need good food in my life to keep myself strong, and cooking and baking are expressive and therapeutic.
So that this isn't all doom-and-gloom, I wanted to share some of my Christmas cookies, too. I spent a lot of time distracting myself with baking in December, and had some visually cool results with these gingerbread and sugar cookies, which were gifts for my family and close friends.
Cookies rolled out, cut, and baked.
I made the gingerbread cookies using the Eileen's Spicy Gingerbread Men recipe, which my friend Laura introduced me to a couple years ago. The only sub I made was using real butter instead of margarine. The sugar cookies were from The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies recipe. In the comments, several people mention the dough being sticky and hard to work with. They're not entirely wrong, but if you run into that problem you can re-chill your dough in the fridge before rolling more out and/or use additional flour.
The icing process...
The base coat of icing was applied using a paintbrush (yes, that's very me). It's an extremely simple mix of 1/3 cup milk to 3 cups confectioner's sugar. If you want to give it a flavor you can use orange or lemon juice instead of milk (which is what I drizzled on the Elizabethan Lemon Cakes for last year's Game of Thrones party). Then I mixed in some simple food coloring gel and made red, green, and gold icing, and applied it with a clean artist's brush. It's remarkably easy to work with and dries to a glossy but durable finish.
Piping on royal icing.
The white icing on top is also just a basic royal icing, made by beating together 4 cups confectioner's sugar, 2 egg whites, and 1 tsp cream of tartar. I find it easy to use squeezing it from a sandwich bag with an icing tip attached, though in the future I'd like to try it with a smaller #2 tip instead of a #3.
All that said, I wish you a very belated Happy New Year, and here's to the remainder of 2014 going better than it started.