For two years now, Kate has been lording it over her brother that she came in first in the gingerbread house building contest, kids division,, and he lost.  Now, technically, he came in second, and she won, because there were only two entries in their division.

I am one of those modern parents who thinks it was great that they even entered, and used their creativity and all that. I would give out ribbons and trophies to everybody!

Last year, we were sick for the contest- I actually had made dough, figuring we could roll it out, but that just didn’t happen. It has been in the freezer for a year- I figure since we don’t eat the houses (mmmm! stale gingerbread!) it doesn’t really matter that the dough is old.

So, this year, we are healthy, and ready to go.  The houses have to be at the library at 9:30 Saturday morning.

Image My design is a cabin on a glass candy lake, with an ice-fishing hole.

Kate wants to have a Valentine Post Office, with heart shaped windows made of hard candy.

Will (previously known as “the boy” but it seems reasonable to refer to him by his name now,) is making a gingerbread Jurassic Park…with dismembered gingerbread people who have been ripped apart by the gingerbread T-Rex.

In order to prevent tears on Friday, we have been doing a little bit of mixing and baking and building every night this week. There still may be tears on Friday. We’ll let you know how it goes.


Ugly christmas sweater

“I’m just wondering what you are going to do when you’re a little old lady.” DH says as he watches me embellish a sweater with felted gingerbread men cut-outs.
I don’t know. But I have to say I am in love with this sweater. The theme is “Mele Kalikimaka” which is how they say Merry Christmas in Hawaii. There’s even a song.
There seem to be lots of ugly sweater parties this time of year- it makes me feel a little bad for the people who wear them sincerely. Only a little bad, though.
This isn’t really a tutorial- there are plenty of ugly sweaters in stores already. But if you’re thinking about making one…
I got a wool sweater at the thrift store- look in the men’s section for one that has already been felted- this is Eddie Bauer, marked extra large, so you know someone got it for a gift, then put it in the washer by mistake. It was like 3 dollars. I cut down the center front for a cardigan. Because it is felted, it won’t unravel. Then I started placing elements.and pinning them. Most of my elements I cut out of other felted sweaters. I know, the voice in my head is saying “perfectly good sweaters” but there are thousands of them at the thrift stores- one I even knit myself and then accidentally felted. It’s okay. There are enough sweaters in the world to cut a few up. I now have a shoe box full of wool felt- very cheaply.
I stitched my elements on, because that is my kind of crazy- if I were short on time, I would probably hot glue them- it isn’t like this is going to get worn that much.

Gingerbread man shooting the curl...

I had some aqua hand dyed, homespun yarn from my very first spinning experience (yes, I can spin, shhhh… don’t tell people, they already think I’m weird.) I stitched it on to represent waves- put in a sequined fish, a beach, a surfer, a flower. I got lazy when it came time to put faces on the gingerbread people. They look odd, but I’m going to go ahead and wear the sweater.

Edited to add- I did wear it, and got lots of compliments. One of my 6th grade girls suggested coconut shell beads for the hula girl bras- I so wish I’d thought of that. I also got some daylight pictures:

The front- the grass skirts for the hula girls were scraps of green calico from a quilt, the bikinis are bits of silk. The palm trees and sequined fish were about a dollar each at Hobby Lobby.

Gingerbread House Madness

Every year, I think it would be fun to make gingerbread houses, and then we do, and I make it so it isn’t fun.

At all.

It takes a full 12 months for me to forget how terrible it is, and then I do it again.
This year we added the variable of a contest.  So we have a brand new way to make it not fun- competition. yea…..

I had a great idea- mine would be a greenhouse, using glass candy for the windows, and candy plants inside that you would be able to see through the windows. The Boy had a cool idea too, a house under construction, using candy canes as the studs of a house. The Girl wanted to stick with tradition, no theme, just a house, but also with windows, and a tree inside.

Okay- the 6 day process begins.

Monday- make dough, last minute trip to grocery for Crisco, not a pantry staple at our house, to make the “construction grade” dough. Chill dough overnight.
Tuesday- roll half the dough, cut out windows and doors, bake and then use every inch of counter space to cool foil sheets of house pieces, for three separate houses. After oven is off- I count up and realize I am 1 piece short…Deadline for entering contest passes, and I feel a little relieved.

1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup, 1/3 cup water. Boil for-freaking-ever, or until thermometer reads 260.

  • Photo credit- The Girl
  • How cool is that? Candy you can see through!

Wednesday- Good news- they are extending the deadline…We boil the sugar syrup to the hard crack stage, 260 degrees, and pour it into the windows I cut into the gingerbread. Both kids are watching closely- thankfully no one gets burned. Roll out other half of dough to make more panels and windows. Recount- still not enough panels- resolve to fill in with graham crackers. As the sugar cools, I repeatedly caution the kids not to touch, Not to Touch, Not To Touch!!

Put myself into time out after 2 walls break due to touching…NOT TO TOUCH!!!!

Technically, a box of candy canes was dropped on it. I really lost it- you know it's bad when your throat hurts from yelling.

Thursday- I attempt some repair with sugar syrup- it is partially effective, if by partially we mean wobbly and sticky. (Also, the fruit flies are having a field day). We did have some fun playing with the decorating kit, including making trees out of ice cream cones.

The Girl tinted the icing, and piped it herself- I love this tree.

Friday- Okay, with enough royal icing, the Girl’s graham crackers attach to the sides and form a cohesive house.  The Boy creates a toilet out of a marshmallow and a life saver. Classy.  My greenhouse roof slips twice, then cracks, then finally sticks.

Contest Saturday.

I have second thoughts.

Both kids have nightmares of dropping their houses.

Why are we doing this?


Edited to add- if you do glass candy windows, make sure you get the temperature up to 260, or hard crack stage- my windows were not, and they have slumped over the past weeks.  Not quite a solid, they are a supercooled liquid. The Girl’s windows cooked longer, and are slightly amber colored, but much harder. This is easiest if you have a candy thermometer. We used an instant -read thermometer.