Gingerbread House Fails Inspection

I really didn’t plan on having a second blog on this subject, at least not this Christas season.

Christmas may be over, but there are still a few stories left to tell.

But since I did buy those four little gingerbread house kits right before Thanksgiving, I thought, what the heck?!

And as you may have already guessed, it certainly wasn’t the greatest of Christmas projects. The granddaughters still had fun, as kids usually do. But Mom and Grandmom? Not so much.

I think I mentioned in my previous gingerbread story I’d ordered these cute gingerbread house kits on line because they weren’t in stock in the store. Not in any of the stores in our area. Being a regular online shopper, it shouldn’t have been a problem, right? Well, it wasn’t. Until we opened the first two kits and several pieces were broken. And of course they were the little reindeer gingerbread cookies that the younger granddaughter wanted to do, and the sparkly pink cottage the older one wanted to make.  And none of the stores had received any more.

So on to the set of the four small gingerbread chalets.  Shouldn’t be too bad, right? Actually they’re really cute. Right?

Notice I said there were FOUR of them. Yes, they were small, but what was I thinking when I ordered them? That was four times putting together houses, icing the walls and the roofs, making sure they all stayed “glued” together til the icing hardened…. Why did I do that? And yes, I was also thinking to myself, why weren’t THESE the ones that were broken?

As you’ve guessed, the construction job is left to me. My daughter doesn’t have the patience. She and her daughters like the decorating part.

So being the good grandmother that I am, I set out to construct the FOUR little houses. Which came in a block of pieces that needed to be (carefully) broken apart in order to make the house.  And I do have to confess, I almost wanted them to break in the wrong places so I’d have an excuse not to put them together. But being a good grandmother, I separated the pieces carefully, and none of them broke. Would it be wrong of me to say “unfortunately”? Yeah, probably.

Actually, three out of the four went together fairly easy. It was that last one with the funky side roof that didn’t. If you look carefully, the roof sort of has a gap in it.  Which was filled in with a lot of the “snow” icing, which will most likely cause it to fall in. Our son in law said it most certainly failed the final building inspection! (I’m not even sure it had a building permit to start!)

But I guess the other three don’t look all that bad. At least the girls had fun decorating them, and getting almost as many candy decorations and sprinkles on the floor as they did on the houses.

Of course, as luck would have it, when we returned the broken kits, the cashier told us they had pre-assembled gingerbread houses in the Christmas department which only needed the icing and candy decorations to be added to it. Well…….let me tell you how quickly we bought one of those!

You certainly don’t think I’d try to make one from scratch, do you? After all, these were difficult enough!

And even better, guess whose job it was to help his daughters decorate that house! And Daddy did a really good job!  I think we have a new assignment for him next Christmas. Why not?

The Magic of Santa Claus

There’s something special about believing in Santa Claus when you’re a child. I remember how excited I became the closer it got to Christmas, just thinking about what I might find under the tree Christmas morning. I remember being so excited I could hardly go to sleep on Christmas Eve. 

My mom made sure we left cookies and milk out for him on Christmas Eve, and she always emphasized that I had to stay in bed and get to sleep so he’d come with all the presents. It was sure hard to do.

But somehow I managed to go to sleep and sleep through the night (oh, how I wish I could do that now!) and wake up so excited I didn’t know what to do!

And I was always even more excited when I looked under the tree at the wrapped presents that hadn’t been there the night before. He’d been there! He really had! Santa Claus himself! And I knew it because he’d also left some cookie crumbs on the plate and almost finished the milk in his glass. I knew he was real.

That special feeling of wonder and excitement just can’t be duplicated. Children need that wonderment, that excitement, that feeling of awe and amazement that only comes once a year, on Christmas morning, under that Christmas tree.

I still remember when one of my friends told me there was no Santa Claus, and I came home from school so upset I didn’t know what to do. When I told my mother about it though, I didn’t ask her if my friend was correct. Because I knew in my heart she was wrong. I told my mom I was upset because now my friend wouldn’t have Santa visit her anymore and bring her presents.

Ahhh….the wonder and magic of Santa Claus to a child at Christmas is just indescribable sometimes.

 And it’s so important.

Our adult minds can’t fathom and certainly can’t believe in the man in the red suit who never ages and who lives in the utter cold of the North Pole with his wife and a bunch of elves who spend all year working tirelessly to make one night the most special one ever for children around the world.

We can’t fathom how this man can get in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, of all things, filled with an inexhaustible supply of toys and gifts, and deliver them to every child in the world on Christmas Eve, stopping long enough at each house to also sample the cookies and milk left out for him by sleeping children.

We can’t understand it with our adult minds because we’ve lost the gift of imagination. We’ve lost the ability, and perhaps even the desire, to see things the way we used to, when the world was a far different place. Many of us have become jaded and cynical, preferring to stomp on the dreams and imagination of others because we don’t believe, and we want others to agree with us, and validate our truths.

Let me tell you this, the wonder and excitement and joy I see in the eyes of our granddaughters when they think about Santa Claus, when they see him, when they talk about him…that’s all I need to know how real he is.

And I briefly go back to being that little girl in this picture seeing Santa Claus in Wanamaker’s department store and telling him what I want for Christmas and knowing (hopefully) I’m going to get it.

I see the excitement in our older granddaughter’s eyes and hear it in her voice when she holds this little green Beanie Baby reindeer we have with our decorations and saying how she really, REALLY wants Santa to bring her one like it. And talks about how she’s going to introduce hers to this one and let them play together.

And guess what. I truly believe Santa is going to do just that. 

Because he’s Santa Claus.

And for those who don’t believe, or don’t want their children to believe, well I have to say I’m sorry, because you really don’t know what you’re missing out on.

Christmas Cookies with the Grands, 2021

Last year was their first adventure helping. It was a fun time of getting sprinkles all over the kitchen floor as well as all over the cookie sheets, and sometimes even on the cookies themselves. Not to mention stuck to their fingers and all over their faces.

This year was no exception, but the decorating did turn out a little bit better.

A book I just finished reading yesterday had a scene with kids helping make Christmas cookies and getting flour all over the counters rather than in the mixing bowl. But as their grandmother explained to their worried mother, “if you’re cooking with children, it’s about keeping it fun and simple. The end result isn’t always important.”

I probably need to keep that in mind. 

Now I didn’t let them help with mixing up the ingredients, because we were on a time schedule, and we had guests coming over, along with the kids having to be somewhere else as well. 

Next year we can attempt to do that. They’ll each be a year older, and it might not be quite as messy. Well, wishful thinking there, too. But you never know.

To save time I’d already mixed the dough and was ready to put it in the cookie press when they arrived. I’d even pulled the jars of sprinkles and colored sugars out and set them on the counter. And their Christmas aprons were all ready for them, too. 

Little cookie bakers and tasters, after all, have to have the appropriate aprons to protect their clothes from stray sprinkles. 

Of course, like last year, they decided it was easier to decorate the cookies while sitting on the floor. Which means it was also easier to get the sprinkles on the floor as well as on the cookies. And yes, we blocked the dogs from coming in there to help!

It’s always an adventure when you’re doing pressed cookies with grandchildren. No sooner did I get them pressed out on the cookie sheets and put them in front of the girls, then they picked their favorite decorating colors and dumped the sugar on them. 

Actually, Ryleigh grabbed a jar of sprinkles with no inner plastic lid for shaking and dumped them out, so their mommy had some scooping up to do so we could at least see the cookies under the pile of red sugar. 

Because Rachel is older she did a little better job, and actually tried to help her little sister. And they were both really proud of their creations. 

I promised them next year they could help with mixing the dough and possibly helping me press them out. (Maybe we can practice on Easter cookies?) They do need to learn, and it’s not too early to start.

And for those of you who want a good pressed cookie recipe, here’s the one we use. There’s still time to make a batch! And I have two granddaughters who’d be happy to help!

Pressed Sugar/Spritz Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat butter for 30 seconds on high. Add sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat til combined, Beat in egg, vanilla and almond extract. Beat in flour, a little at a time, until mixed.

Force unchilled dough through cookie press onto cookie sheet. Decorate with colored sugar and sprinkles as desired. Or watch the kids or grandkids do their thing.

Bake 8 minutes til edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.

Happy baking, and Merry Christmas from all of us!

Making a Gingerbread House

All the pictures make it look so easy. Right?

Mom and the kids sitting around the table, maybe even with Grandmom, and happily frosting/gluing the pieces together, adding the candy, and then a perfect gingerbread house is completed.

May I ask you, have you ever really tried doing one? With or without kids? It’s really not as easy as those pictures show. And it definitely doesn’t always turn out like it looks like on the box. Even for those of us who are usually quite crafty.

How do I know? Well, last year my daughter and I decided to make one with the grandkids. At the time Rachel was 4 and a half; Ryleigh a year and a half. 

I guess I should’ve said my daughter and I decided to make one. While the kids watched. Or played something else. Or waited to eat the candy that went on it.

We’d actually done one the year before. That didn’t turn out well at all. Besides Rachel being a little too young to really be a lot of help, actually putting these together isn’t that easy. The sides and roof pieces that have to be assembled are “glued” with white frosting. The frosting doesn’t work like my hot glue gun! And getting them to stay upright and in place isn’t a piece of cake, or gingerbread, either! 

Trust me, our finished product from that year certainly isn’t worthy of being seen on here!

Last year though, was a bit easier. But only just a bit.  It may be because we used a different brand gingerbread house kit. Maybe because the grandkids were a year older. Or maybe we’d just learned from last year what NOT to do.

Our daughter learned what not to do. She learned that she had no patience in putting the sides and roof together. So guess who got the job? The same person who did it the year before. As you can see from the pictures.

And getting the roof on and actually getting it stay is almost an engineering project. But I did it. And when the frosting “glue” dried, it actually stayed together. That was an improvement over last year!

Next was the part our daughter and Rachel were looking forward to. Decorating the house. The kits contain all the candy needed for the houses, and there’s usually some left over. Which makes all the kids, big and little, quite happy.

And our daughter and older granddaughter really enjoyed putting the candy on, even though not all of it went on the house. What did little Ryleigh do? She watched for a few minute, grabbed a bit of the candy, and went back to playing and watching cartoons.

Fortunately the house turned out fairly well. We were all proud of our accomplishment. 

So proud, in fact I actually got another kit for them, and we all put together a gingerbread camper. Which wasn’t quite as difficult. Or else we’d learned a little more about how to do it.

So what do you think about our collection? Are you ready to try and do your own? You don’t even need to have kids or grandkids to try it. But that makes it more fun. 

Or you can do what our daughter did and order an acrylic one to put together. Much easier. And lasts a lot longer. Isn’t it cute? And you knew it had to have a flamingo with it!

Here are the finished products. What do you think?

To show how brave we’ve become after this, we now have four gingerbread kits to make this year. We may or may not write about those, depending on the finished products. But you never know!

And why not send your own gingerbread house pictures in a comment. We’d love to see them!

Happy holiday creating! The fun is just beginning!

How Thanksgiving Really Is

A lot of times after a big holiday we have a letdown, a time when we sit back and reflect on all the preparations and hurrying and worrying to make sure everything is perfect, and wonder, after all we did for a few hours of family time and food, was it worth it? All the work, that is.

The turkey’s been eaten, and leftovers put away. Casseroles are covered and refrigerated for tomorrow. Leftover pumpkin pie sits on the counter in case someone wants another piece.

All the work and preparation and it’s over in an hour or so. And everyone is exhausted.

Yes, we gave thanks for time together, and yes it was wonderful, although it certainly wasn’t like a Norman Rockwell painting. It never is. And for those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to, please look up Norman Rockwell and his work. Then you’ll understand.

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At our house, it was a small gathering. Our daughter and her family, and her dad and me. And that was fine.

Now the Thanksgiving crafts Ashley brought for the kids to do didn’t quite turn out too well. Grandpa complained his crayons weren’t coloring right. Little Ryleigh lost interest quickly. Probably because she didn’t feel good. So Rachel and her mom got to have all the fun, including making a Thanksgiving hat for Daddy. Even one of our dogs decided to join in the fun and try to eat a couple of the kids’ crayons. Didn’t know yorkies liked crayons….

The food was good, even though it wasn’t all necessarily homemade. There’s nothing wrong with stovetop stuffing, turkey gravy in a jar, ready made mashed potatoes, and a frozen pumpkin pie. But I did make two casseroles myself. And Ashley and the girls made cinnamon buns from my mother’s recipe, which is our tradition.

We didn’t carve the turkey at the table; that’s just not practical. Good thing, though, because the electric knife decided to die on us when my husband started to cut it, and our son-in-law had to use his deer knife to carve the bird. He did tell us he’d cleaned it after he last used it out in the woods!

We didn’t dress up in our best clothes, like we did as kids at our grandma’s house on Thanksgiving. But we did eat in the dining room. We didn’t use our best china, but we didn’t use paper plates either. Good thing we used unbreakable dinnerware, though! You can imagine why with two little girls….

The grandkids had fun, even though they didn’t eat much. One ate three helpings (kid-sized) of corn pudding and one ate mostly cinnamon buns! Our daughter put ketchup on her turkey while her husband used hot sauce. Who else does that? And why?

The grandkids were actually more interested in running into the living room to try to play my piano and in the next minute go look out the window for Santa Claus. Rachel even said she thought she saw him on the roof and made her Daddy go look! But I guess he’d already left because they didn’t find him.

I wonder if he was starting to make his list early!

The dogs were unhappy because they weren’t allowed to be in the dining room with us, half because they wanted to be with us, and half because they knew the kids were dropping food on the floor and they wanted to help with the cleanup!

But don’t worry about their holiday dinner! They discovered the cloth napkins and tablecloth I’d thrown on the steps to take upstairs to the laundry room, and they were more than happy to grab those and run around the house with them.

Guess they wanted their Thanksgiving treats as well!

Family Thanksgiving pictures? The closest we got to that were pictures of the grandkids helping their mommy make the cinnamon buns and taking pictures of the kids modeling the Thanksgiving paper hats they’d colored.

Now tell me the truth…was your Thanksgiving more like ours or more like the picture perfect scenes you see on tv commercials and magazine ads?

I think I know the answer already. And I really wouldn’t want it any other way. After all, it’s our family, and that’s just how it is!

And if you’re wondering how my husband was able to handle all this after his heart procedure two days ago, well, that’s another story, for another time. While we wait for it to be rescheduled now that the insurance company has FINALLY sent the doctors their approval! Things do work out for the best after all. Because Thanksgiving day would have totally worn him out.

And now it’s on to getting ready for Christmas. And there’ll surely be more stories and memories to cherish.