January 7, 2017

Our First Gingerbread House


Daddy’s contribution.

One of the things we wanted to do this past Holiday season, and never seemed to get around to, was decorating gingerbread houses. We bought the kits on Black Friday (and saved $1, wahoo!), and they’ve been on our kitchen counter ever since.

No time like the present, right? It’s not like the kids care that the holiday has already passed.

Nicole has been asking about the gingerbread kits since they first appeared on the counter back in November. She’s always had a love for all things creative. Combining crafts with candy? Pure perfection. The first thing she asked me this morning was whether I remembered promising we would decorate the gingerbread houses today. She was not going to let me forget!

Nicole and I set up while Alexis was napping. Mommy was on construction, while Nicole inspecting the quantity and quality of the different types of candy. When Alexis woke up, Nicole ran to go show her that everything had been set up and we were ready to start. I asked Alexis if she wanted to decorate the gingerbread house. Alexis replied, “No, Alexis eat it!”

Both kids had a blast. I wasn’t sure what to expect (besides copious candy consumption). I was really impressed with the ideas Nicole came up with. She made a Christmas light strand out of mini gum drops, and put holly in the windows. Even Alexis got into putting candies on her house and not just in her mouth, eventually. I predict a start of a new tradition.

Lessons for next time:

– Use a knife to shave down the sides of the ginger bread prior to assembly. I have vague recollections of doing this when I was growing up. It didn’t occur to me to shave down the excess gingerbread along the edges until the first time a house collapsed. The excess gingerbread prevented all the edges from touching at once, making it harder to hold together the house while the icing set.

– Assemble overnight and give plenty of time to set. The instructions indicated the icing only needed 15 minutes, but that wasn’t my experience. Over an hour after assembly and decoration I moved the houses so I could take a photo of each of them. As I was moving Nicole’s it collapsed. Nicole heard my “oh no!” from the family room and came running. I was really proud of her for not getting overly upset. She didn’t cry, and understood it was an accident. I’m not sure I would have had that level of maturity at four.

I did manage to get it back together, but it’s a lot harder once the icing has partially set, and it collapsed a third time on me.

– Extra candy is not really needed. At least not when one of your kids is just two. Another vague recollection I had from decorating gingerbread houses as a child was that the candy the houses came with wasn’t enough, so I bought some extra candies. My fear was premature. Alexis could really only eat the gum drops that came with the kit, so we supplemented her with left over holiday m&ms. That meant there was a lot of extra kit candy for Nicole. I plan to hold on to the supplemental candy set for next year since there’s no expiration date. It may get a little stale and maybe even chewy, but the kids won’t mind.

– Extra icing, on the other hand, is an excellent idea. The kit comes with a large tube of thick royal icing. I had two kits and two tubes, and only needed one. The challenge is that the tube is really hard for little kids to handle. The grocery store sells tubes of icing that are actually much easier for little kids and rather inexpensive. I could also make my own icing and use icing bags, but that seems likely to dramatically increase the mess factor.

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