Saturday, November 9, 2013
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Last December we hosted a Gingerbread House Decorating Party for about 30 guests. It was a lot of work to prepare, but everyone had such a great time decorating, socializing, and creating new traditions. Now that Fall is here, I hope this post inspires you to host your own Gingerbread House Decorating Party.
One of the great joys of parenthood is creating traditions with your children. One of our family's favorite holiday traditions is decorating gingerbread houses. A few years back, I went to the store to buy the usual kit, but none were to be found. Anywhere. Switching gears, I did a quick web search and found a fantastic Gingerbread House recipe and photo tutorial from Simply Recipes. I altered the template, and came up with Gingerbread Cottages. This way, everyone could decorate their own house. What started out as a cottage for everyone turned into a cottage for EVERYONE!
I like to make cottages so that everyone can go home with their own creation. This link explains how I did it. I found it was easiest to roll out the dough on a floured piece of parchment paper. I had a tea towel under that to keep things in place. A sharp knife helps cut out all those pieces.
One recipe is enough to make at least 9 cottages. Depending on how many guests you'll have coming, that's a lot of creaming and rolling and cutting and baking and phew! I made my dough ahead of time over the course of a couple of nights and then took the next three or four nights to roll, cut, and bake. Remember, it's gingerbread. You can make this stuff a month in advance.
Sheet 1: 12 squares
Sheet 2: 12 rectangles and 1 pentagon
Sheet 3: 11 pentagons
You'll need an airtight container big enough to store all this gingerbread. I purchased a rectangular storage tub for this purpose. Layers are separated with paper towel. When the tub was all filled, I wrapped it like a giant present for our guests to open! More on that later...
It was a blast to see each guest channel their inner engineer! The cottages were assembled with royal icing. If you're having a small party, or just doing this for your family, go with canned icing. It works just fine. For a large group, that can get expensive, so I went with Royal Icing made from Meringue Powder purchased at a craft store. The recipe is on the can. Use one of those 40% off coupons from your local craft store and you're good to go. The other ingredient is just powdered sugar, which I purchased in bulk from a warehouse type store. Plastic baggies made for simple piping bags.
For the party, I asked each guest to bring a bag of their favorite candy. I sent the invitations via evite, and added a poll at the end listing as many types of candies I could think of. Kind of like a pot luck sign-up. This way, everyone can see what everyone else is bringing and you don't end up with 20 bags of candy canes and no gum drops.
Some suggestions include: mini candy canes, gum drops, gummy circles, chocolate covered raisins or nuts, marshmallows, coconut, gummy bears, pretzel sticks, sticks of gum, sprinkles, m & m's, hard candy circles, peppermint circles, etc...
One guest brought ice cream cones which everyone used to create "Christmas trees" out side of their cottages.
And now, for the actual party...
As guests arrived, I took their candy and got the young ones started on a ginger bread man/woman foam craft that I found at the local craft store. I also had a cardboard playhouse pre-assembled and ready for the kids to color, along with this adorable "doodle". These casual activities, some light snacks (fruit, veggies, crackers...), and socializing kept everyone busy until the official start.
When all the guests had arrived, my good friend A., gathered the kids around and read them The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. In this charming tale the mischievous gingerbread baby eludes capture, saying, "You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread baby." Finally, the hero bakes and decorates and gingerbread house to catch him. I placed a clue at the end of the story for my friend to read to the kids. It was a riddle leading them on a hunt for the gingerbread!
Off they went. The first riddle directed the kids to the goat pen. This was the clue my friend A. "found" at the end of the book. It went, "Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man. Weeds are good, but oats are better. Catch me if you'd like something better."
The clue at the goat pen led the kids to a bouncy trampoline in the back yard. It read, "Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man. Bouncy, bouncy into the sky. You can't catch me because now I can fly."
Next up was the piano. (On the left hand side of the picture below, you can see the roof of the cardboard house the kids had been decorating before the official start of the party.) "Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man. A B C D E F G. Listen closely if you want to catch me."
The last clue led the kids to the laundry room where they discovered a try of gingerbread babies. "Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man. It's as hot as the oven from where I came. Don't spin me or fluff me or I won't be the same."
I then directed the kids to a large rectangular wrapped box. They tore it open and discovered the parts needed to make their own cottages. Everyone got to "work" and had a messy, sticky blast!
I made some gingerbread trees with leftover dough.
I knew there would be a lot of candy sampling going on, so I didn't make a dessert for this party.
My engineer brother-in-law crafted this two story masterpiece!
Our guests constructed their Gingerbread Cottages on sturdy, medium sized paper plates. You're dealing with a structure that's basically 3 inches wide, 3 inches deep, and about 5 inches high. I had bags available for guests to place their creations in, along with festive ribbon and bells to tie it all up.
chili and baked potatoes. It ended up being very budget friendly and simple to make. Other simple, serve yourself ideas include a taco salad bar or a baked potato bar. Yum!
I plan to make this an annual tradition. Follow along on my Gingerbread House Party Ideas Pinterest board for lots of great ideas.
Do you host or plan to host a Gingerbread Party? Tell us all about it in the comments section.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Friday, August 2, 2013
First on the First challenge was pickles, I knew I'd have to give it a go. A true first for me! My kiddos and their friend helped to make these Sweet Dill Pickles. They were a snap to make and quite tasty too! Woof!