Today we made gingerbread houses. I have made the policy that we can do one 'big' baking project per Christmas season, some years is it decorating cookies and other years it's gingerbread houses. Trying to do every single fun holiday option in one year is just too crazy-making.
I was going to bake the gingerbread myself, but I saw some really inexpensive kits at Aldi and after I quickly did the math realized that buying the kits was actually going to be the cheaper option. Plus it would save me the afternoon of baking and cutting out gingerbread. I also decided to get each child their own kit. I just couldn't imagine how some of the population would be able to share a house without a whole lot of fuss and bother. Not only was a house for each of them my gift to them, but it was also my gift for myself to ensure peace and tranquility.
It paid off. We had a lovely morning with only one bout of tears (from L. when I took the candy away from her... she was well on her way to eating all of it before her house was even ready for her to decorate). I love activities where everyone is calm, enjoying what they are doing, and enjoying each other's company. Plus, there was Christmas music playing. Christmas music makes everything better.
Another plus was that Gretel is spending the next 24 hours as the vet getting spayed. You would have thought I had planned to do the houses on the day when Gretel was out of the house. I didn't, but it was certainly helpful. It gives me some time to make sure all of the candy is cleaned up from the floor and we didn't have to worry about her wanting to 'help'. We pick her up tomorrow... still waiting for the call from the vet that everything went well. G. was particularly upset when I came home without the dog. She didn't quite understand that Gretel would come back tomorrow and thought the dog had left for good.
Now my family has a long tradition of gingerbread houses. I think it is even safe to say that if my mother makes another gingerbread house it will be too soon. There was one (or maybe two) years that she made large and very elaborate gingerbread houses as a fund raiser. They were beautiful, expensive, and incredibly time-intensive. She became an amazing artist in the medium of icing.
So between what I picked up from her, and my own experience this morning, I have some tips for you to make the whole gingerbread house experience go as smoothly as possible.
1. Use hot glue to put the actual house together. (I wish I could claim credit for this brilliant idea, but it is not original to me.) It goes together faster, dries quicker, is more solidly held together, and you don't waste expensive frosting on construction. And really, who is going to want to eat the old, stale gingerbread anyway?
2. Take my advice and put all the houses together before everyone sits down to decorate. I didn't, and though everyone waited pretty patiently, it would have made the whole morning feel just a touch calmer if I had done this.
3. Likewise, go ahead and make up lots of icing ahead of time. Royal icing works best... just google a recipe. There was enough icing in the kit to get everyone going, but it was a popular commodity.
4. Invest in icing decorating tips and disposable bags. It just doesn't work very well to snip the corner off the packaged bag of icing as instructed in the directions. These (decorating tips) are handy things to have anyway.
5. Buy extra candy. When you're decorating a gingerbread house, you just can't have too much candy to choose from and eat. Which brings me to...
6. Relax and let them eat some of the candy. Or in the case of some little girls I know, a lot of candy. It's part of the fun, and it's only once a year. G. was even more fond of the icing. If a piece of candy fell off her house, she would pick it up and lick it.
7. Have fun. I know this seems like an odd thing to have to say, but I'm saying it to myself as much as anyone. I tend not to like messy things, and so I have to consciously make an effort to decide that the mess will be OK, I will be able to clean it up, and just enjoy my children's joy. I'm getting better at this, I'm happy to report.
I will put a lot of pictures from our morning on the facebook page. I know some of you can't access the fb page, and I'm sorry. A friend gave me what could be an easy fix to my Blogger/photo problem. I just need J. home for a bit to help me work on it.
First a bit of really good news. It looks as though both Kramer and Garnet have families who are working to adopt them! There pictures have been moved to the 'My family found me' section of Reece's Rainbow. I am so happy for them. I will admit to a twinge over Kramer... there was a small part of me that kind of hoped we could bring him home. I have eternal optimist tendencies because I also knew that that just wasn't in the cards for us right now, both for financial and other reasons.
But, there are still three children waiting and waiting. Little Harvey is one of them.
This is Harvey. He is 3 years old and is the size of an infant. Harvey is extremely malnourished and also has some cranial-facial issues. This little one also touches my heart since K. was malnourished (at some points in his life, rather extremely) and two of my children have cranial-facial issues. It is something that sounds very scary, I know. But my children are so much more than their diagnoses. This little boy has never known what it is to be loved and cared for. Doesn't he deserve at least that?