Springbank Park in Winter

John and I ventured out on the 26th to take a walk in Spring Bank Park. It's my favorite running spot in London, and you may have read about it here and here. Here are the photos we took to document our cold adventure:

I thought the light looked just right to take a whole bunch of pictures just before dusk.

It was cold, but the parks dept. laid down enough salt that the path was relatively clear.

We hardly needed our YakTrax, but John really wanted to try his out, since I got them for him for Christmas.
Here's an upclose shot:

I love this picture of John on the run:

View from the bridge:

And from the other side:

My favorite path:


Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last week I decided I wanted to send some cookies to one of my favorite cousins, Halley.

Here she is with her fiance, Josh. I'm so happy that both my girl cousins have really great fiances.

She eats vegan, and I love that about her because it means I have a food ally in my family for when I don't want to eat meat.

Sad doggies watching Halley and her mom back out of the driveway.

In an unrelated note, I finally got to meet her dog earlier this year - Minnie, the 100 lb great dane (shown here with my Aunt Becky's dog, Phoebe).

Left to right: me, my cousin Jessica, and Halley.

I searched around for a vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe and settled on one from Post Punk Kitchen. It was one of the only ones I could find that didn't involve egg replacer - not that I'm trying to avoid it, exactly, but I didn't have any and I'm not sure yet where to find it. This one turned out to be perfect and I've already made it two other times! I hope they tasted good by the time they reached Halley in Chicago, but you know, stale cookies are good when heated up and dipped in your favorite alterna-milk.

Check out these bad boys. They taste like magic.

Did I mention this recipe only takes one bowl?

Instead of posting the whole thing, I'm just going to link to the recipe. If you're so interested, check out their website. They have a lot of awesome food to share.

Click here!


Eggnog Cake

Last week was the week of potlucks. I tried to think of something different to bring to each one (fancy salad, muffins, cookies), and for the finale, we made an eggnog cake.

One of the people who ate it said it was just like her mom's "hot milk cake," which apparently involves heating milk on the stove before mixing it into the batter. This cake works the same way, with eggnog and butter heated on the stove.

This is one of the recipes we will probably make on Christmas. The dry-run went fairly well, but I think I'd rather take it out of the oven near the minimum baking time. We gave it a couple extra minutes and I thought it was a little dry. One of the things I liked about this recipe is that it only makes one 9" cake, instead of a layer cake that usually makes to 9" cake rounds. The big issue was the icing - we used some leftover butter cream that I had in the fridge. The recipe calls for frosting made with cream cheese and bourbon. The butter cream was way to sweet and the flavor almost totally overpowered the eggnog. So for Christmas we'll use the boozy icing, and I think it'll be great!

Eggnog Cake
from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup egg nog
1 TBSP butter
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325F.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until very thick; the batter should fall from the beaters in a thick ribbon. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.
While beating the eggs and sugar, heat the eggnog and butter in a small saucepan just until simmering. Add the hot eggnog to the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream as you continue beating. This will keep you from cooking the eggs.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring until they’re just combined.
Pour the batter into a lightly greased 9 inch cake round.* Bake for 50 minutes, or until the cake is a deep golden brown and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove the cake from the oven and cool it in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the pan.

Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
3 1/2 TBSP bourbon
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4cup butter, at room temperature
4-5 cups powdered sugar (will depend on how thick you like your frosting)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until soft.
Add the powdered sugar and beat to combine.
Add the bourbon and beat to combine.

*I greased and floured mine. Next time I will also add a ring of parchment around the bottom of the pan to help it come out more smoothly.


Melted Snowmen Cookies

This week as I was reading my food blogs I came across a post about using marshmallows to make melted snowman cookies. It didn't really look too difficult and after I watched about 10 youtube videos about piping with royal icing, I thought it would be fun to give it a try.

For various reasons, however, I got kind of lazy. Instead of making royal icing in a few colors I just bought some cookie decorating supplies. What could go wrong?! This is a moment of foreshadowing: we learned that gel icing tubes are probably not right for this kind of detail. Still, the regular white icing we used worked fairly well and I'm pretty sure all of it is vegan. So if you made some vegan sugar cookies, this would translate fairly easily (making royal icing vegan surely involves lots of chemicals, but apparently no animal parts).

The set up.

Part of the point was to use up a very old package of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix, and in order to make them big enough, I was only able to get 5 cookies out of it (the fifth didn't survive the transition from cookie sheet to cooling rack). Still (more foreshadowing), the gel icing doesn't look super appetizing, so it's not like these are actually going to get eaten, and I think our attention spans held out just long enough to do all 4.

Gillian came over to watch a movie and decorate with us.

That's my little snowman, just after I gave him eyes. "Purple" turned out to be a sort of light blue, and it pretty much made our snowmen look possessed. The gel didn't really hold its shape very well, so their stick arms kind of bloated up.

Here's Gillian's, before his face was finished. Check out those creepy "purple" eyes!

John decorated the fourth cookie. As he says, in fairness, he had the most practice. But this fourth cookie is the only one that I think looks endearing, as intended.

Look how much mine looks like a scary clown. "Merry Christmas, boys and girls! AHAHAHAHA!!!!!"

John's first snowman is even scarier. Note how his eyes are oozing down his face, and he's apparently having a nose bleed.

John's second snowman just looks pleasant in comparison to our demonic ones.

Love the ear muffs. Here's the whole gang:

After the gel sort of spread we decided that Gillian's (far left) looks as though his throat was slit, with blood dripping down. I think with royal icing and finer tip they would have turned out fine, and the whole thing was pretty fun! I guess I have a certain habit of making Christmas desserts look evil - recall last year's gingerbread robot monsters.

Since I didn't really bake any of this from scratch, here are some links, including a very clear tutorial on how to make these snowmen:

Post with pictures and instructions

Snowman Cookie Tutorial


Snowy Curtains

I just can't quit with these snow pictures.

Here's a majestic picture of "the Hill" on campus, with the University Center building at the top.

And the space between the music school and the business school:

John sometimes gets impatient with my picture taking.

The snow is gradually sliding off the roofs on our street, and it's sort of hanging over the windows like a curtain.

Weirdly, the icicles don't fall off or break at that point. They just reach toward the house, like they're trying to get in and stab us. John said it looks like the inside of a shark's mouth, with so many rows of teeth that they curve in.

I still can't complain, since we need actual curtains in our bedroom. Now the neighbors can't see me getting dressed.


Tour of the Tree

**Note: I wrote this last week after a few too many days of being pretty stuck inside our apartment. We left London for a few days and we know there is even more snow waiting for us when we get back. Sigh.**

I thought I'd take you on a personal tour of our Christmas tree. Because you're snowed in for the fourth straight day, too, right? You've stared at the snow, whirling around in the street light until you think you see your own face in it, too, right? Until it looks like it's actually going up, instead of falling?

Okay then!

My mom has given me a Starbucks ornament for the past several years. I'm not obsessed with Starbucks, but the ornaments are kind of snazzy. I probably go there during Christmas more than any other time.

They're American Girl sized!

Most (oh, all) of our ornaments were gifts from either my mom or John's mom.

John's mom usually had a theme. This sparkly guy was from the year of fish ornaments.

The year of bears.

That angel wasn't part of a themed year, and I think she gave it to John independently of the usual ornament tradition.
The ornaments from my mom, besides Starbucks, don't show a pattern. But they're also only a fraction of the ornaments she's given me over the years. We've got this G. I. Joe ornament:

An Eiffel Tower from my mom, the year I went to France.

And a beautiful red ball from my Grandma Madge.

I took these elves from my mom's boxes of Christmas stuff years ago. I can picture exactly where they were in our house growing up: lowest, left-hand side section of the entertainment center in our living room when we lived on Hemlock Lane.

These houses are from a series that Hallmark started the year I was born. My mom has bought one every single year and usually puts them in my stocking. Every year is a different type of building; a barber shop, a Victorian house, a drug store, other old-timey places.

We've started calling the living room "the Christmas room." I like to plug in the tree and write my papers there.

Christmas Decor

You may have noticed when I described the insanity of our Grande Jatte puzzle that John and I have our Christmas tree up. It's kind of been up for a while, but I thought I'd show you the photos I took of the transformation our apartment made for Christmas.

A before shot of the tree spot.

And voila! Our presents are wrapped (though a couple need to be shipped) and the stockings are hung. We still have plans to write the names of our family guests, but that'll be a separate post.

As you can see, we go for a cozy, multi-colored, and fake tree. I've had it for years and it's a little sparse, a la Charlie Brown, but we beef it up with some lighted garlands.

This was taken right after John said, "This is the last one I'm doing." He's a sport.

I convinced John to take this photo, the first of our new annual tradition: the Shu'Pippen Family Christmas Photo.

Obviously this is only one of many Christmas related posts.

Cabin Fever

John and I can spend a lot of time together without getting sick of each other's company. The snow days last week were sort of like finals week come early, so we both had papers to work on. Thank God, no one has lost power, or this whole mess would have been a lot worse. Still, we've had to come up with a lot of indoor activities. We finally opened the puzzle that John's mom gave him for Christmas like 6 years ago.

The pictures are a little dark, but I think they help convey how absolutely impossible this puzzle is. It's of A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of the Grande Jatte, one of John's favorite paintings.

It's a gorgeous painting and I'm sure it will eventually look good. But for real. A pointillist painting makes one difficult puzzle. It's hard to tell the fuzzy looking tree pieces from the fuzzy grass pieces, and the fuzzy blue could be either sky or water.

I felt really proud of myself after spending an hour trying to get these trees. And by that I mean a small portion of the trees.

It totally looks like trees, right?

We're making slow progress, but for real. What the hell piece is this? And why are there so many?

From all the detail in this post, you can tell that I'm ready for the Snowmageddon to be over for a few days.