Operation Gingerbread!

the inspiration

At last my top-secret operation has been revealed! I like to call it “Operation Gingerbread.” Like all top-secret operations, it had phases. Three of them. Phase One was the cardboard-box version that I posted about over on Alpha+Mom. Phase Two was a real gingerbread-cookie house and Phase Three is still yet to be done but involves freezer paper, a t-shirt and a gingerbread man illustration shouting “Catch me if you can!” Stay tuned for Phase Three.

transferring data from mars

For Phase Two we brainstormed and did our research. We may or may not have gotten some inspiration from a Sur la Table catalogue and Mars (via Bug’s antennae). I LOVE gingerbread now. It’s so pretty, cute and delicious all at the same time! I almost love it as much as I love hedgehogs (which is huge). I have a feeling December’s banner may involve some gingerbread…

can't recommend this mix enough

I might not have fallen so hard for gingerbread if I hadn’t stumbled across a giant display of this mix at my local grocery store. I don’t usually like to push products on this blog (and I’m not getting any kickback for this) but Krusteaz makes the best mixes!

I guess I’m a bit sentimental about Krusteaz because when I was in college (and starvingly poor) my dad got a job as a grocery broker representing Krusteaz. This meant he went around to all sorts of grocery stores to make sure their product was up to code and looked nice on the shelf. As a side benefit he got to take home the out-of-code boxes of pancake mix and brownies, etc. Sometimes my mom would send these out-of-code boxes to me in big care packages.

Let me tell you, there is nothing as delicious as FREE food when you are a starving college student. I was pretty much surviving on spaghetti noodles, ketchup and the stale biscotti from the break room at my job. Getting a box of cake and brownie mixes in the mail was like a gift from heaven back then. These mixes were especially great because most of the time all you needed to add was water. Perfect for a college student who has no cooking skills and not a thing in her refrigerator.

admiring our handiwork

But I digress. I recommend this mix because it’s easy, it tastes good and it smells DIVINE!!! If you need a little kick to get in the holiday mood, bake a batch of these and next thing you know you’ll be sniffing the air and singing Christmas carols.

demonstrating the proper cookie pushing technique

We had so much fun making and decorating the cookies that I made three batches of them. One with Jen and her family, one with my nieces and then one with the kids I babysit. It’s super-easy and always a crowd pleaser.

the pieces

Making the house, however, was a bit more challenging. I’ve never tried it without a mix but it was plenty hard (for me) with the mix. I’m sure JustJenn would disagree but then she’s a baker AND an architect—which is not really fair in my opinion. My first problem was getting the walls and roof to harden enough to build with. I thought I could finish Operation Gingerbread in one day but I was very wrong. It took THREE days (and several hours in the oven with just the pilot light on) for the gingerbread-cookie walls to harden completely.

Then when they did harden enough to be sturdy, the pieces weren’t perfectly square anymore. I think something happened in the various ovens I transferred them around to. When I put the walls together there were big gaps that had to be filled with copious amounts of gloopy sticky icing. And that icing! Could it be any stickier?!!! It sticks to everything! My clothes, the table I was working on, the floor, my fingers…it was a mess. Of course it didn’t stick when I was using it to glue a heavy star candy to the side of a wall for decoration. No, then it slipped down and left a big track mark of white paste. I guess it wasn’t all that bad. But I would definitely say that this project is best with older kids who can help and not with toddlers who like to not help.

helping with the m&m placement

My ten-year-old niece, Rapunzel, was a huge help. I don’t think I could have done it without her.

neat!

In the end, the little house turned out pretty cute. I covered up the icing glue tracks with slices of gumdrops. My niece added a curving pathway and candy corn fencing. Then we dusted everything with powdered sugar “snow” and called it a day. Enough sugar will heal all that ails, right? The kids loved it. After I took enough photos to prove that I really did complete the project, we gave the house to my Grandpa to display at the group home he lives in. I think the old folks will appreciate it a lot more than I did.

Our Non-Thanksgiving Puddle-Jumping Adventures

Puddle Jumper

I was about to type that today was the quietest most uneventful Thanksgiving I’ve ever had but that would be a complete lie. First, because Bug is NOT quiet or uneventful; second, because there was that one Thanksgiving where I cooked a complete dinner and then my drunken family members never showed up. Yeah. That thanksgiving was by far my WORST Thanksgiving ever.

Today was uneventful (not counting the half-dozen very exciting things Bug and I did) because we did not celebrate Thanksgiving. My dad and brother are truckers and we didn’t think they would make it home in time so we put off the big feast and festivities until this coming Sunday. We spent today quietly at home not eating turkey and not hanging out with family. It wasn’t so bad actually.

for you Mommy!

Even though we were not celebrating anything today, you could tell it was a holiday. Our usually bustling neighborhood was still and serene. It was eerily quiet. I could actually sit by my open window and not hear a car go by. That never happens.

We live behind a restaurant that sells ham and it’s been a madhouse there lately. We hate this time of year because the ham-buying customers take up all the free parking spots, they line up around the block and they litter. The ham-restaurant employees are even worse. They honk and bang and make a giant mess of the parking lot that is our main view. Their holiday help is especially bad and it’s not uncommon to see them lighting up a pot pipe, drinking a 40 or urinating on the wall behind the restaurant. I know. We should move. One of these years.

ker------!

Anyway my post is not about them. It’s about Bug, of course. My silly little puddle-jumping Bug. We’ve been waiting all year for it to rain. She has rain boots and she knows how to use them. The only problem is there are hardly ever any puddles around here for her to jump in. She’s worn them in the ocean, she’s worn them in the kiddie pool but all she really wants to do is wear them in some puddles!

follow the trail

After last night’s rain, we figured there ought to be some puddles around somewhere. So off we went hunting for them. Of course, even though it was rainy in the morning, those puddles dried right up and took some serious searching.

Bug even made up a song to search for them by. The tune may be borrowed from something off tv but the words are a true Bug original. She’s my little songster. Everything has a song.

splish! splash!

I guess the song worked because she found some puddles and she splashed and she splashed and she splashed. You could say those puddles got their butt kicked.

puddles all the way home!

I can think of worse ways to spend the holiday.