I believe in miracles.
I try to change the world every day.
I love my husband, my friends, and my family.
I plan my next great adventure constantly.
I think most occasions call for a dress.
I write what I know and believe.
A couple of weeks ago, I was working from home on a Friday afternoon. I decided to break up the monotony by working on the best snickerdoodle recipe. (In case you haven’t noticed by my recipes, I’m the original cookie monster.) I didn’t want to go to the store, so I needed to use what we had at home. Thankfully, we had just enough of everything on hand.
I wasn’t exactly paying attention though, so I ended up dumping more cinnamon into the dough than usual. (I generally try to follow Lovin’ from the Oven’s recipe.) It didn’t matter. The best snickerdoodle recipe never, ever fails, and the cookies were delicious anyway.
These cookies turn out soft and chewy with an understated cinnamon sugar flavor. I love the way the house smells while these cookies are baking! It smells like Christmas and these tend to be a holiday favorite for me!
Last week I shared my favorite Christmas sugar cookies, along with a note about my how my favorite childhood memory included decorating cookies for Santa. This week I’m going to share how to use royal icing to decorate cookies because if I can do it, you can too!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.
How to Use Royal Icing to Decorate Cookies – The Basics
The first step to flooding cookies with royal icing is to outline the areas you want to fill. You can do this with a stiff royal icing (just add powdered sugar!) or buttercream, but I’ve also used Wilton’s piping gel. It doesn’t dry quite as hard as icing does, but you really just need it to act as a barrier so you don’t have a giant mess when you flood the cookies.
Once you’ve given your outlined cookies time to set, you can make a batch of royal icing. One of the coolest things I learned was that you should flavor royal icing to match the color because people expect things to taste how they look. For example, you could use cherry or strawberry candy flavoring for red icing, lime flavoring for green icing, or even Godiva liqueur for brown icing! (I use gel food coloring to get vibrant, custom colors.
3 oz - milk (water, soy milk, evaporated milk - whole has better flavor)
*Flavor options: 1 tsp concentrated extract OR 1tbsp alcohol or liqueur OR 2-3 drops of concentrated candy oils
In mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the sugar and milk first. The icing should be very soft and have a heavy cream texture before adding the corn syrup.
Add the corn syrup all at once and mix until just combined.
Divide icing into several bowls. Flavor each bowl with extracts, alcohols, or candy oils.
Color each bowl of icing as desired (gel colors work best.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent drying.
How to Use Royal Icing to Decorate Cookies – Pro Tips:
Instead of using an icing bag to flood cookies, buy the squeeze bottles used by hair stylists. You can use a funnel to fill the bottles over a covered surface. This allows more control over flooding, which makes a smoother cookie. I MAKE HUGE MESSES trying to use royal icing in traditional icing bags. When I took the class at ICE, I literally had icing all over my hands, clothes, parchment, and my cookies were REALLY ugly. I felt like a 5 year old in a class of professionals. Squirt bottles = heaven.
To completely flood cookies, start from the edge that you outlined and work your way inside to the center. It’s okay if your lines aren’t completely next to each other – the icing will naturally spread as you go. If you need to, you can fill it in when you’re done or use a toothpick to help cover the cookie.
There are all kinds of nifty things you can do with this icing using different colors (seriously, buy the book!), but to learn how to use royal icing to decorate cookies, I think it’s helpful to start with the basics of flooding cookies. I’ll try and put together some more examples soon, too!
You should let the royal icing sit for at least 24 hours before considering the cookies “done”. When they are completely dry, the icing will have a pretty sheen. (You can also use pearl powder to add a pearly sheen to the icing!)
I’ve been thinking about writing a post on planning a romantic getaway to Florence for awhile. I know that we spent part of our honeymoon in Florence, but it was my husband’s first time in my favorite city, so it wasn’t exactly the same. We’ve been back for the past few years, and this year, we spent a week there. I think our trip this year was my favorite, but maybe it’s just because it’s the most recent trip.
We stay at the St. Regis Florence. (This should be a given by now.) Whether it’s one of their incredible suites or a river view room, each room is beautiful and different. This past trip, our room seemed extra cozy and romantic. I always talk about how much I love the location of this hotel, but I think it’s because I really enjoy the walk along the Arno – in both directions. Whether it’s early in the morning or late in the evening, the river is always beautiful.
The other thing that makes me love this hotel is the staff. Somehow, Stephanie cultivates such a warm and welcoming staff. Viviana’s emails always make me feel welcome and excited to return. As soon as we arrive, Park is always ready to help with any detail. But, truth be told, Andrea always makes our stay extra special. Each year, he leaves recommendations and suggestions based our interests. This year, he directed us to the less busy Bardini Gardens, and I was able to recreate one of my favorite photographs from my study abroad semester (with a much, much better camera). Since he also enjoys photography, he gives me recommendations on where to find the best views! The St. Regis commitment to personalizing each and every single romantic getaway to Florence is something I don’t think we would find anywhere else.
Avoid the Crowds on a Romantic Getaway to Florence
I don’t think you can (or should!) take a romantic getaway to Florence and skip the iconic sights. Whether it’s watching the sunset from the Piazzale Michaelangelo or wandering the Boboli Gardens, you should have those experiences. That being said, there are a few secrets to make it a bit more enjoyable.
Jockeying for a spot at the Piazzale Michelangelo stresses me out. This year, we skipped the piazzale and made our way up to San Miniato al Monte. We had a front row seat for the sunset and way less people to deal with. We might have even been able to sneak a few kisses without an audience. (The year before, we took photos with Facibeni Fotografia near sunset and we had a audience. We definitely made it into some people’s vacation photos.)
Early Mornings are Made for Gardens
I know it can be hard to pull yourself out of bed on vacation but getting to the Boboli Garden before 12:00 ensures that you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself. (The light will be softer and more beautiful, too.) We arrived around 9:30, and we had the place to ourselves. (Actually, there was a school group but we went in the other direction and never saw them again.) We found the same to be true at the Bardini Gardens.
The Uffizi and the Accademia shouldn’t be missed, and if you’re not an art person, booking a tour will ensure that you get the most out of it. It also ensures that you can skip lines if you don’t book your museum tickets far enough in advance. We’ve done both early access tours and enjoyed them equally. I think we’re particularly looking forward to visiting the Accademia again since I forgot my camera the first time. (The David really is that impressive.) If you’re looking to just book tickets in advance, I suggest the earlier the better.
Confession: I’ve never stood in line to get into the Duomo. Since my apartment was a block away from the Duomo, I watched the line constantly. There’s a line when it opens (both in the morning and the afternoon), but there’s never a line towards the end of the day. Going in the late afternoon meant that I could spend as much time as I wanted staring up at that dome.
Ponte Santa Trinita vs. Ponte Vecchio vs. Ponte alle Grazie
I’m always confused when I see people staking out a spot before the sunset on the Ponte Vecchio. While it’s beautiful to watch the sunset over the Arno from any perspective, you can’t see it if you’re on the bridge. Personally, I tend to gravitate to the Arno from wherever I am at that moment. If you want to see the sun set with the Ponte Vecchio, you need to be on the Ponte alle Grazie. It’s a little further away, so bring your zoom lens if you want photos. If you want to watch the blue hour descend on the Ponte Vecchio and still be able to appreciate the sunset, you want to be on the Ponte Santa Trinita. (Don’t forget to turn around to see the brilliant colors of the sunset though!)
Unique Experiences for a Romantic Getaway for Florence
Get Out of Town (briefly)
My husband probably has PTSD from the time we did a Fiat 500 tour (and Nico, the most patient tour guide ever, probably does, too). I, however, choose to remember golden hour in the Tuscany countryside, what it felt like to snap this photo (and others) from the side of a hill, and watching the sunset while drinking delicious wine and snacking on tasty prosciutto. The tour departs from the hills outside of Florence, and you’ll be back in time for dinner or a stroll along the Arno.
If driving a double-clutch Fiat 500 isn’t on your bucket list, take the No. 7 bus up to Fiesole and plan lunch with a view of Florence. We sat up there for at least an hour just enjoying the view.
One of the first cooking classes I ever took abroad was in Florence, and I fully intend to take a pasta class. It’s a fun way to spend an evening, and you’re basically bringing home a souvenir that you can always enjoy. Since then, I’ve learned to make pesto in Cinque Terre and apple strudel in Salzburg. It’s a fun and delicious way to spend an morning, afternoon, or evening!
It’s been a month of trying to sit down and write an update / life lately / currently post. It seemed way more fun to focus on recapping our travel adventures or sharing delicious recipes. But, that’s not real life, so here’s a little recap of real life.
[One] I had a staff member quit on November 2. When I returned from California advisory board duties on November 15, I became the college advisor at that school. I need to interview for a new one, but I simply don’t have time right now. It’s easier to fill in and try and start someone after Christmas break, I suppose.
[Two] Because of said staff changes, we weren’t able to head to Houston to visit my in-laws for Thanksgiving. We stayed here and had a quiet holiday with my mom, my cousin, and my grandmother. I am really excited about how my tablescape came out. I also shared a delicious almond torte recipe that I made yesterday.
[Three] I received a new lipgloss from influenster to try and I’m thinking I’m really going to love it. I haven’t purchased new make up since our first anniversary trip to NYC. I’m actually the worst at it. I like to play with it before I buy it, but I don’t like being bothered by salespeople.
[Four] Tomorrow’s my birthday. I have zero plans, zero things on my wish list, and zero expectations for it. This makes me everyone’s least favorite person, including myself. Truthfully, if you asked me last month, I would have told you that I just wanted to get away for a weekend to relax. (I wouldn’t say no to another weekend at Spa del Rey!) I don’t need anything. The other thing that I want (that no one can give me – unless you have a contact at Penn law – lol) is for my kid to get into law school ED. He’s one of my first and favorite kids.
[Five] I’ve been wrestling with a professional decision that I need to make by Wednesday. I’m frustrated because college access is so political. The decision is a no brainer (don’t give me an ultimatum), but I worry about the ramifications for underserved students if my voice isn’t at the table.
[Seven] The instagram algorithm is showing me pictures from all the European Christmas markets. Couple that with the post I did on our trip last week, and I have major trip envy. Nothing feels more like the holiday spirit than Christmas markets!
[Eight] We’re hosting Christmas this year. Since I’ve been working in the high school, I haven’t had any time to plan it. I did put up the tree and the stockings I made though. I’m excited to host everyone, but I’m overwhelmed by the fact that I haven’t done any Christmas shopping. (I didn’t think the Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals were that good. Did anyone find anything great??)
[Nine] I can’t even talk about what’s going on politically. I’m convinced that Chris Murphy from CT needs to run for president though. I follow him on twitter, and he reminds of the West Wing. When I look at my students, all I can think is that we’ve got to do a better job… and I hope they are the future.
[Ten] Speaking of students, decisions will start coming out soon. We’ve got a number of early applications that I can’t wait to hear the results of. We had three kids match through QuestBridge on Friday, and that was super exciting. Three boys received full scholarships to Amherst, Grinnell, and Vassar. That’s the kind of win that I’ll leave you with today. 🙂
When we went to Venice for our anniversary earlier this year, our hotel included the most delicious breakfast buffet. One of the things I tried was an almond torte, and I was hooked. I decided to make an almond torte recipe for Thanksgiving. I used Leigh Anne’s recipe as a base and adapted it to work for me by cutting down on the sugar and the almonds.
Everyone, including those who don’t typically enjoy sweets, really enjoyed this almond torte recipe. It is really easy to make and it presents beautifully. The best part about this recipe is that it can be made in advance. Since we’re hosting Christmas, I’m thinking about making it for Christmas morning. Maybe Christmas Eve? Only time will tell!