Monday, December 5, 2011

Gingerbread Day

The other day my girls and I wandered into the lobby of The Four Seasons Hotel here in Austin to see their annual Gingerbread Village display.  (a little awkwardly, I might add.  It's usually apparent enough that we don't belong at The Four Seasons, but it happened to be pouring rain that day, and we looked particularly bedraggled and dripping down mud.  But- oh well...if they are going to display fancy candy houses, they're going to have to expect a little preschool riff raff :-)

This year they are displaying replicas of Austin landmarks.  We even got to see a gingerbread version of the hospital where I'll be delivering little baby J in a week or two.

It was fun to look, but I realized that the whole experience was a bit of a tease for the girls when M turned to me and said, "NOW, can we eat them?"

Thankfully, I had previously frittered away invested some time on Pinterest looking at holiday ideas, and remembered a pin for a site with instructions for making super easy graham cracker gingerbread houses.  It seemed that the next logical thing to do was to stop off at HEB for some graham crackers and candy.

The bulk candy aisles were particularly fun because we were able to purchase just a few pieces of a big variety of little candies.

While the girls napped, I set to work constructing the graham cracker houses.  The site from Pinterest really has amazingly good and detailed instructions.  I was especially thankful for her suggestion to use melted chocolate instead of the royal icing I would have used as a default.  Royal icing takes a lot longer to dry and so leaves the little house pretty susceptible to collapse for a couple of hours.  The melted chocolate dried quickly and solid.

The only real trouble I had was in making sure I had enough graham crackers.  When I opened the package I found that half of the crackers were broken.  (may have had something to do with the fact that little G was in the basket with them at the grocery store) In the end, I was able to salvage enough for two little houses.

It looks a little messy, but white melted chocolate looks enough like snow and icicles; so in the end I was happy with them.  And, of course,  the girls thought they were amazing!
Decorating the little houses was an absolute dream come true for them.  They spent over an hour intently decorating, and then only stopped because I made them get washed up for dinner.  For the candy decorating we did use royal icing.  It would have been hard for them to decorate fast enough before the chocolate hardened.
It was a great day, and I'm excited to continue the gingerbread tradition next year.  Of course, the massive amounts of candy are a bit troubling, but we've been eating them slowly, one piece at a time (as rewards for potty training)  Still, it would be fun to come up with a healthier version of a gingerbread house...maybe with dried fruit, etc.  Or would that take all the fun out of it?

 I think it might be fun to host a gingerbread house decorating party next year.  Have any of you done that?  Any tips?   Any fun books to go along with the activity?  (I considered Hansel and Gretel, but the part about throwing the witch into the oven always makes it a bit of a disturbing story to me :-)   
It would be great to get other suggestions!


Mommy Cameron said...

How cute!  I will say your girls looked better than the one we did.  Also, I love the Austin gingerbread village. It was easy to recognize the buildings. 

Amanda said...

How cool!  I am always Pinning things from your site and this post is no exception.  I might wait until my youngest is two next year, though.

Christine Gould said...

I've never done it with kids, but we did do a gingerbread-house-decorating party for our young adults' group at church a few years ago.  We split into two groups (there were only 5 of us) and made two houses.  VERY interesting to see personalities emerge as we tried to work together!  (And by that I mean, the other group's was a complete mess of thrown-on candy, and Isaac's and mine was detailed perfection.  Go figure.)

Sarahwright99 said...

Good books to read:  There are many version of "The Gingerbread Man" story.  "The Gingerbread Baby" is pretty cute.

maryanne @ mamasmiles said...

Those are some amazing gingerbread creations!

My mom ran a few gingerbread decorating parties, although it was for older kids (4th grade and up). She built the houses beforehand, so the kids just had to add candy. Another option might be to just decorate the shape of a house, bas-relief style, instead of a 3D house.

Mrs Mordecai said...

Great activity! Now I want to do it with my kids. I actually think Hansel and Gretel is a great story to read to kids but I see your qualms about reading it at a party. Now that I'm a mom, to me the most disturbing part is the parents leaving their kids. We have two versions of this story, one illlustrated by Eloise Wilkin and the other by Paul Zelinsky and they're both amazing. There is a SuperWhy episode featuring Hansel and Gretel that is so super-sanitized it isn't even scary anymore if you're looking for something tamer (but more boring!). It used to be available as a free podcast on iTunes.

Pam Lafferty Ross said...

That looked so great to do. What fun for the girls. Those pics are so precious. I love the look on the girls faces. Aunt Pam

Katey @ Having Fun at Home said...

I remember being really fascinated with the gingerbread man story when I was little :-)  

Katey @ Having Fun at Home said...

Bas relief style sounds cute!

Katey @ Having Fun at Home said...

Christy, I can very much picture that. :-) 

Katey @ Having Fun at Home said...

Thanks, Aunt Pam!