Well readers, it’s been a while. I haven’t posted in a few weeks and have a lot to catch you up on, including but not limited to dealing with anxiety/depression around the holidays, chasing dreams, tapping out, and where have all the socks gone? However, today we’re going to talk about gingerbread. See, I’m a sucker for holiday traditions. I love the repetition, which is funny because I have probably instigated more change in my life than anyone I know (other than Dreamy). All the same, I am comforted by routines and some of my happiest childhood memories revolve around some of the things we did year after year.
Ironically, most of the things I remember happily weren’t particularly happy at at the time…like putting up the Christmas broomstick with coat hanger branches while the lights NEVER worked and my sister and I fighting and getting yelled at for fighting while we were waiting…or getting yelled at for fighting with my sister while making UBake Christmas ornaments, or cookies. Or getting in trouble for fighting about who gets to put the presents in the stockings Christmas Eve…The point being that if you do something over and over enough times, you’ll eventually convince yourself it was wonderful and have happy memories about it. It has totally worked for me (seriously, I do remember these things fondly, and we laugh about them all the time now that we’re grown up and hardly ever get yelled at for fighting anymore). I’m really hoping it works for my kids too, because so far, ‘tis the season to yell at them while they fight as I try to make happy memories, DARN IT!!
Because I have 3.5-year-old twin boys and a 5-going-on-14-year-old-girl, who have been arguing about EVERYTHING, it seemed like as good a time as any to start an ambitious holiday tradition of making our own gingerbread house from scratch and decorating it. For the last several years, I’ve bought a pre-made house from the grocery store and decorated it with Bisky but this year no one is putting #NoBen in the corner and #StopThatAiden will not be denied an opportunity to do what his beloved lord and master (Big Sis) is doing. I’ll be honest, the initial driver behind the whole ‘do-it-completely-ourselves’ thing was cost. Three pre-made ginger homes would be upwards of $30, which just seems dumb, so I combed the halls of Pinterest and found what I was looking for; a step by step tutorial on how to bake and assemble a gingerbread house.
I wasn’t intending on doing it this weekend, but after I mentioned to Bisky what I was thinking it immediately became a promise, and we didn’t have anything else to do, so I headed off to the store to get molasses and gumdrops. Below is me excitedly about to go in and spend $10 on a few things to decorate with. Next, is me after spending WAY MORE than $10 because I should not be allowed to shop ever.
The next step was cutting out the templates to make the house. This is so not my thing, I’m much more a wing-it kind of gal, but after making 12 cups of flour worth of gingerbread, I’ll be you-know-what’d if I waste it by not following all the instructions. So I constructed all my little cutouts out of nice sturdy paper (so as to avoid a similar debacle as experienced with the pumpkin-carving stencils).
Making the gingerbread required boiling molasses and sugar over the stove, which brought back traumatic memories of spilling scorching hot ‘never fail fudge’ on my arms and feet as a girl (making fudge is another tradition I remember happily, second degree burns non-withstanding), so I made sure the children stood well away from the stove. Which distressed them.
There was a scary minute when I thought the flour would never incorporate, but using all of my considerable muscle, I kneaded it all to the right consistency and Dreamy helped me roll it into the pans. It came out much thicker than I expected, which is probably good. We are much more at a sturdy cottage stage of our gingerbread architecture (and life) than elegant and refined. I cut out the pieces while warm, and eagerly awaited construction time, while all three kids whined “can we decorate, can we decorate, can we decorate, can we decorate” over and over in between fighting over who would sit where when we DID decorate, and I yelled at them to stop fighting (aww, memories being made already).
Then I had to ‘glue’ the pieces together to make the house. This is the part that everyone warned me about. The house part was okay, but I think I did something wrong because there was a 2-inch gap when I put the roof on. Then the walls started to buckle. We pressed in though, spackling where we could and using soup cans to bolster the wall. I told the kids we couldn’t decorate until the next day, which made #NoBen apoplectic, but had to be done.
The next day the ‘glue’ really had firmed up to cement-like consistency, and it appeared that our little edifice was going to stand. I carefully divvied up all the licorice, and candy canes, and gum drops so nobody would have to SHARE, and after a brief but intense argument about who would sit where, I set them loose.
I can honestly say, the experience wildly exceeded my expectations. All I was really hoping for was that they’d get to put some M&M’s on the thing before it collapsed, but we got through the whole thing and everyone was pretty pleased with the results.
And after we finished, Bisky asked if we could also please get a ‘store-bought’ house because that’s the ‘real’ tradition.
What are your holiday traditions?