We became creative, inventive, technologically gifted, resourceful-all in the effort to live life and connect with fellow humans. Plans were ditched or tossed aside, trips canceled, 35th anniversary trips to magical locations did not occur. Birthday parties became drive-by’s. Travel screeched to a standstill as nature locations filled to overflowing with folks desperate to get outside. To get OUT. Childcare and transfer between shared-custody parents became fraught with contact points and who was sick and who was with whom when they got sick. Schooling reached new heights of teamwork between parents, teachers, and Nana’s. Vocabulary increased to include 2020-specific words like virtual learning, hybrid learning, Google Classroom, Zoom, Loom, Chrome Book, internet capabilities, mute yourself. DIY projects blossomed and not once was Lowe’s closed. I suspect they, and other home improvement stores, had a banner year of profits due to the frenzy of home projects. That, along with shortages of flour, yeast, sugar, and toilet paper gave insight to what most of us were doing. Staying home, fixing up, and baking.
The traditions were the hardest to “fix.” Outdoor gatherings, socially distant of course, and much fuss over wearing masks (cute, cotton, and washable) has become so normal, I fear for our social skills and facial expressions once the pandemic settles down.
And then Christmas. How to do gingerbread houses? Carefully. In a huge area. With only healthy grands.
And Christmas gifts? Christmas pillowcases became my idea of the year. Totally reusable gift bags, tied with jump ropes. Open your gifts, put your gift bag, er, pillowcase, on your pillow for a good, snowy night’s sleep. Why didn’t I think of this before? Sure, sewing them on Christmas Eve Day is not advisable, but it did allow me to work my way through several Hallmark Christmas Movies as I cut, pinned, sewed, and ironed. And I’ve already purchased my fabric for next year to avoid the same rush. (We might check back on that one, because having purchased fabric is not the same as having sewn the pillowcases. . ..)
Gingerbread cookies were baked yesterday. December 30. They taste just as good, no matter the date, especially plain, with coffee.
Are things looking up for 2021? I certainly hope so. But even if the recovery is slow, I know we can do it. We’ve had all of 2020 to figure out how to make things work. Like in the days of the Depression, our ancestors made do, made it work, or made do without it. We are ready.
May the Lord go before us, bless us, and keep us as we journey into the new year! See you next year!
The grands are getting older, and therefore much more able to decorate gingerbread houses. For the older two, decorating is the goal instead of consuming vast amounts of sugar from the icing and candy. The younger three, well, sugar is the main goal.
Nana got smart this year and combined gingerbread house decor with Thanksgiving Dinner and Smashing of the Pumpkins. Once December hits, the schedule goes from zero to 100 mph and Christmas festivities cut into my attempts to gather all 5 for my Nana tradition. This seemed the best bet. Plus, a good meal was had, so some sugar was counter-balanced with turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy.
Before and after shots of grands and houses.
Tips for Your Gingerbread House Decorating:
*Gingerbread kits can be found in all variety of sizes, configurations, and number of homes included. Coupons and sales abound in a variety of stores. I found one set with 5 homes. Done. 5 grands equals 5 homes. Though I think some parents wanted to participate. Maybe next year I will need 2 sets.
*Hot glue houses together. This saves tons of time and keeps the houses steady for little hands. And who really eats gingerbread houses anyway?
*Cover cardboard with foil and tape to secure. Hot glue houses to foil. These bases provide plenty of room for landscaping and home decor.
*Purchase cake decorating pieces like our Christmas lights and snowmen. The grands loved adding them to their houses.
*Use tub frosting. The royal icing is soooo stiff, only the oldest 3 could manage to add it to their houses with the tube included in the kit. Soft frosting is just fine for adhering candy.
*Give each child his/her own plate with treats, decorations, a plastic knife, and a glob of icing. If they lick the knife (safe to lick, plastic!), it’s their own germs they eat.
*Limit sugar consumption by making sure home decorators have first eaten a meal. Divvy up candy between all involved decorators, thereby spreading the (sugar) wealth.
*Take lots of photos! Who knows what will happen once the houses go to their respective homes!
*Have fun! Messes are expected, so don’t worry about the small stuff. Everything washes off with a wash cloth.
Merry Christmas and Happy Traditions to You! Happy Gingerbread House Decorating!
Never fear. Nana had the grands over for a wild and seriously crazy evening of decorating gingerbread cookies. That is not an understatement.
For the past few years, I have decorated gingerbread houses with the grands. But this year, with 3 boys and 1 girl, six years old and younger, I thought gingerbread cookies would be much easier. I was right.
But we still made a big mess, gobbled too many decorations, and spread icing far and wide. One nice thing about decorating cookies instead of houses was that we could eat our work instead of letting it sit around and petrify into cement.
I’m not so sure the parents agreed. But like any good grandparents, we played, made memories, fed them too much sugar, and sent them home.
Here are a few photos from our Gingerbread Party. Notice the series when Gage decides he is GOING to have his plate and cookie (Nana had to decorate his, as he can’t eat cookies yet). Of course when we are all watching his actions, Donavyn chooses that moment to look at the camera instead of eating the icing and candy off of his gingerbread boy.
1. Make the cookies in advance. Definitely. I used giant cookie cutters and made 1 girl and 3 boy cookies. The extra dough was used for normal cookies.
2. Sort candy into individual bowls. That way, each child gets the same things to put on their cookies. Or, I mean, the same amount of sugar to eat.
3. Give each child a cookie sheet as a workspace. Escaping candies and sticky knives stayed right where they needed to be.
4. Forget the fancy icing. Just buy a tub of white icing. It spreads so nice and easy. The icing in the gingerbread house kits is horrible and making a glaze icing that doesn’t spread is frustrating.
5. Enlist someone else to take photos. No way could this Nana help everyone, keep Gage from eating stuff, and take photos. Even with assistance, taking pictures of our completed cookies was the hardest part!
6. Have fun! Eventually we will get back to the houses. But for now, keeping it simple makes more sense. And next year, when we have 5, I think I will have to adopt yet another helper for crowd control.