Today: Gingerbread Houses
Quite a few years ago now, my eldest sister decided to decorate a gingerbread house with her family. It happened to be a year that Cici (our mom) had gone to visit. Much fun was had by all. Somehow (totally type C) this single gingerbread house has expanded into a family wide tradition that is actually more for the adults than the kids. Although don’t get me wrong, the little ones love the accompanying sugar rush!
Hence the annual gingerbread house contest-a contest without winners or prizes! Every year each household in the family who wants to participate makes a gingerbread house sometime before Christmas, and posts the pictures online at our family website.. We have gotten quite competitive and creative (like when Bick and her husband had Dr. Ted over last year and built a gated community next to a slum).
Gingerbread house decorating may sound lame, but it is one of those things that winds up being more fun than you think. Cici, who is now the biggest proponent of the contest, didn’t think it was going to be much fun that first year. 2 years ago, when we were still in the Army, we invited some of our friends over to decorate with us. The husband, a retired Army Command Sergeant Major, wasn’t so into the idea. By the end he was totally into it and directing traffic on how his wife and son were decorating.
This is a tradition that can be done relatively inexpensively, or you can spend a whole heck of a lot. It all depends on what you buy. I got the basic gingerbread house at AC Moore this year for $8. That includes the baked pieces, icing mix, icing bags and some basic candy. The candy they give you is never enough, and never creative enough, so we of course go out and buy more. That “buying more” portion is where you can run into some serious cash! Some ways to cut the cost would be to bake your own gingerbread (I’ll try that eventually) and to buy your candy on sale throughout the year with decorating in mind. Also, you can think nontraditionally for the decorating. Our rule is you can use anything as long as it is edible. So we have crackers for roofing tiles, pretzels as logs, coconut as snow etc.
Some tips and tricks if you decide to try the gingerbread house thing.
#1-You must assemble the house the day before you want to decorate. The icing “mortar” takes a while to dry. If you try to do it all at once it will fall apart on you.
#2-You should use canned goods to hold the walls up (sandwich style) until the icing dries, then take them out and mortar on the roof.
#3-If you are picky about how your house turns out, you may want to make the kiddos their own house to decorate. I usually make the kids their own little mini house out of graham crackers so they can decorate it however they want, then DH and I work on the big one. I told you we all get a bit competitive!
#4-Don’t forget the savory items in your cupboards like dry cereals, crackers, snack foods etc when decorating.