One of our yearly Christmas traditions is that my sister and I make gingerbread houses with family friends. This year marked our eighteenth (yes, eighteenth!) year, and the four of us are always amazed by how different and unique our end products end up being, despite the many years and many houses between us (if you do the math, we've collectively made a total of 72 houses!). We've all learned a good deal over the years, including, but hardly limited to, the following:
1) don't over-bake your gingerbread or it'll look like a fire-charred mess that even frosting can't fix
2) don't let the one-year-old baby near the egg-whites when he's deathly allergic to eggs (that one-year-old is now 19, so I promise he survived the ordeal!)
3) cardboard is a miraculous substitute for gingerbread that any four-year-old will fall for (that four-year-old is 22 now, and we still won't let her live that one down!)
4) never forget The Secret Ingredient or you (or rather, your house) will pay
5) completed houses cannot stand with only two walls. Three, maybe. But not two.
6) below-freezing temperatures are an excellent frosting-dryer
7) it usually takes three months to scrape the frosting off the floor...if you're lucky...
This year, Ashley made a Colonial Williamsburg-inspired whitewashed house with a little porch, an 18th-century formal garden, and a pasture to house her marzipan lamb, who came all the way from Vienna as a gift from her boss. Although the rest of us think the house came out lovely, she isn't happy with the final product, so my house will have to stand alone this year on the blog (though I will sneak in a picture of the lamb because he's so cute!).
I usually end up with some kind of very traditional-looking Victorian-inspired concoction, and this year was no different. Yes, everything on and in and about the house is completely edible (though you might break your teeth if you tried nibbling now...!). The only thing you can't eat is The Secret Ingredient, but that's between the four of us house-makers and Martha Stewart! :-)
The only near-tragedy that occurred this year was some minor trauma (falling off the counter) and violence (being smacked off the roof by my elbow) inflicted on my tower. But there's (almost) nothing a little frosting can't fix!
Miss T, one of our fellow house-makers, made a yellow house nestled in a forest of trees and animals this year, while her brother, Mr J, made one of the identifying buildings from his college campus. In years past, we've had everything from a Harry Potter Hogwarts castle (that was Mr J) to the Prentis store at CW (that was Ashley) to a massive Monticello that Ashley and I made between us. It just isn't Christmas without gingerbread!