Last night I faced a serious dilemma. I had a lot of baking and decorating to do but my back was locked up like Chris Brown during the holiday season. See what I did there? In all seriousness, my back tends to lock up on me if I spend a lot of time standing in my kitchen. I should use this as an excuse so people will cook for me, but I enjoy the process. Long story short, I needed a workout to loosen me up. I know what you’re thinking and yes it’s true, I am 29 going on 75. Fortunately running usually helps with the back issues.
So after Finn and I made our nightly dog park visit where he proceeded to eat every form of snow ball, clod, brick, and poof in sight, I decided to attempt a quick run outside. While my distance is low and my pace is slow, I’m excited to be getting back into a regular running routine. I’ve been religiously rehabbing since the Marathon and after a few test-runs on the treadmill I felt pretty confident I could maneuver the outdoors for a few miles.
It’s been so long since I ran in the cold, I nearly forgot my temperature threshold. As a personal rule, I don’t typically run outside if temps are below 30 degrees. Call me crazy but I’d prefer a 98 degree hot yoga class to nosecicles most nights. But I was in a time-crunch so off I went. It was a few blocks in that I began my internal debate as to whether my temperature threshold was set before or after wind chill. I quickly determined that it was in no way after as a frigid 20 mph wind blasted my face.
It was cold. But the more I ran, the more I remembered how much I love running in the cold. Fresh cold air in your lungs seriously trumps inhaling other gym rats hot sweaty exhales. Great mental picture, huh?
So do yourself a favor and go out and run in the cold. Watch out for black ice and dogs eating snowballs, but go out and run in the cold. And after a few miles, go ahead and stop at your local pet store and pick up a 30-pound bag of food as a final kick. Throw it over your shoulder and try not to fall down as you lug it home. And then, only then are you ready to spend the rest of your night in your kitchen decorating cookies.
What does running have to do with cookie decorating besides loosening up your muscles, you might ask? Well, I believe that if you’ve already mentally and physically pushed through a form of exercise in frigid temps, you are more inclined to finish a cookie project that you expect to physically and mentally exhaust you even more so. Tis. The. Season folks.
It’s been a while since I’ve attempted sugar cookies as they can be a royal pain in the icing. Royal icing can be difficult and time-consuming. My dad loves this type of cookie though so each year for Christmas I attempt to improve my icing skillz without completely losing my sanity.
I use a basic sugar cookie recipe and follow Wilton’s royal icing instructions. I’ll save you the monotony and just give you a good link to a very talented blogger who is well-versed in icing 101. For this year’s batch I attempted to use her 20 second icing as I didn’t want to spend a ton of time piping and mixing flood icing. I know I’m speaking in cookie language so let’s just look at another picture shall we?
Since this is a thicker icing, the easiest way to create texture is to ice the cookie in layers as I did above here with what started as Christmas trees and ended as woodland trees.
note: I’m horrible at remembering to get out my camera mid-process so please accept my apologies for my lack of in progress photos.
Work your way through the various layers and go back and fill in with the second or third color once your first layer has dried.
For example, with the presents, I did the green bows when I was doing the trees, the white part of the Santa hat along with the candy cane stripes and so on and so forth.
As I was digging through my cookie cutters, I noticed that my acorn looked an awful lot like a gnome head.
I bet I could make a Santa beard out of that gnome head/acorn
No way is this going to look anything like Santa.
Huh. This kind of looks like Santa.
And so ends your moment inside my head. When I first decided to attempt a freestyle cookie (i.e. one that doesn’t match it’s intended cookie-cutter purpose) I thought it would be a major fail, perhaps even end up as a Finn cookie. But the more I layered, the more I enjoyed being able to decorate it however I wanted. And so Santa was born, or arrived, or came down the chimney.
On a side note, the last two days there’s been an elf at my bus stop. Yesterday she was dancing. Today, bawling her eyes out. An elf’s life is tumultuous this time of year. Hug an elf if you get a chance.
Have a very merry Christmas!