Saturday, December 20, 2008

Good friends and gingerbread houses - or Why Good Housekeeping Will Never Hire Me As Their Christmas Decorations Editor

It is said that you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends. My family is pretty remarkable, if somewhat weird, and I enjoy being related to them. Once in a great while I've been lucky enough to have friends who fit right in with my family. If that's troublesome to them (and perhaps it should be!) they've managed to conceal it gracefully.

Two such friends are our neighbors, Mary and Gary. Although Mary & Gary don't have grandchildren yet, they are very indulgent of Ada and Addison, and the attraction is mutual. Addison has been known to follow them to the bathroom!

So Mary, in what was either a gesture of extreme kindness or a diabolical plot, brought two gingerbread house kits over a couple of weeks ago - one for each kiddo. All she asked was the opportunity to see the finished products. I, who had never put a gingerbread house together, was charmed by the thought. I had briefly considered getting one kit for the two of them to share, but dismissed the idea when I realized that coordinating kid visits at this time of year was going to be problematic. Mary, of course, was untroubled by the mechanics of such coordination.

So when we unexpectedly had Ada overnight last Thursday, I seized the opportunity. I knew that I would be babysitting Addison on Friday evening, and could arrive early enough that he and I could work on his house; Ada and I could decorate hers before I left.

What I learned about gingerbread houses:
  • It takes longer than the recommended 30 minutes for the walls and roof construction to set; overnight is better - and may be mandatory!
  • Gumballs do not work well as roof decoration unless an adult is willing to hold them down for 10-15 minutes EACH while the icing sets up enough to hold.
  • Gumballs DO make a good cap for the peak of the roof, but if you press down too hard, the roof will start to slide.
  • Neither gumballs nor jellybeans are recommended decoration for the sides of the house; gravity takes over even more quickly on the vertical than it does on the slope.
  • Not all kids are thrilled with sticky hands and fingers, but all of them are thrilled at the sight of unlimited bite-sized candies!
  • A gingerbread house is a good opportunity to get rid of leftover Halloween candies if you have a creative mind.
  • There's really nothing quite like the memories created when you decorate a gingerbread house with grandchildren. Some of them are even good ones!

But in the final analysis, it was fun and the kids were proud of their creations. Grandpa observed while Ada and I labored, and Addison's mommy actually got into the act and was quite creative with candy canes and mints.

So, thank you, Mary, for the gingerbread houses! I'm including pictures so you can see the finished products. It was very thoughtful of you and I can hardly wait till you and Gary have grandchildren so I can return the favor.

I'm thinking drums...


  1. Wow. This makes me so glad I resisted the urge to have my children decorate gingerbread houses. I'm proud of you; I would have hidden the houses, claimed camera failure, lied through my teeth - if necessary, moved to An Undisclosed Location.

    You're tougher than you look, Chica!

  2. The finished product is quite good! You definitely get a Grandmother of the Year nomination for this project. Whem my kids were younger we made "gingerbread" houses out of graham crackers, icing, and all sorts of candies. This was traditionally done the day after Thanksgiving. After a few days of indoor admiration we gave them to the squirrels to admire. Squirrels love gingerbread houses!

  3. It all makes sense except for the "leftover Halloween candies" part. I'm not familiar with that concept. But a sweet story nonetheless. And don't forget, good drums should include cymbals! Hope you enjoy the holidays. You've got a good start.

  4. Oooh! Graham Crackers! And then give them to the squirrels! This would be easy, inexpensive, and would result in fewer sugar-induced tantrums, and I bet my small children would have a blast. Thanks for the tip, Holly!

  5. Thanks for doing the hard was fun in between all the reminders that "no he can't have a taste." We did finally eat a few nibbles of the house (the gingerbread was yummy!) before we left for our trip.