Simple, Really? Creating a Gingerbread ‘Masterpiece’

Thursday, Dec 22nd, 2011 by

I was really inspired by Jamie Weitl’s guest post last month about how she was creating an experience-based Advent Calendar to make sure she spent the season making memories with her three young chlidren.


So I did the same. Well, almost. OK. Sorta.


I didn’t make those darling red-and-green circle tags like Jamie did. I just scrawled dates and ideas on scrap paper I tore up into rectangles. Some of our “experiences” were pretty basic, like printing out free Christmas coloring pages and then coloring them together. After my daughter and her friends took apart the Advent Calendar I was using for the paper scraps — and one of the “drawers” went missing for several days — I just piled the rest of the pieces on my desk. And some days our plans changed last minute: We never did make it to any of the holiday-themed library storytimes in Batavia or Aurora that sounded like such fun.


But I made sure my 3-year-old daughter and I did something holiday-themed each day. That definitely eased my anxiety about Christmas getting away from me, as it has in years past, especially before I became a mom.


On Tuesday night, our holiday-themed something was to make a gingerbread house. 


It is truly amazing how closely this resembles the photo on the box. (Read in sarcastic voice.)

It is truly amazing how closely this resembles the photo on the box. (Read in sarcastic voice.)


Don’t worry: I didn’t bake one from scratch. Ours was just a kit from Williams-Sonoma, purchased mostly because it promised a “building tray for foolproof construction.” It also claimed everything my “young builder” would need to “create a masterpiece” and said she would have a “blast” customizing her creation with decorations including “festive red-and-white peppermint pinwheels” and shredded coconut “snow.” Hmmm. The peppermints looked pretty standard to me.


The gingerbread house was indeed easy to put together, especially with my husband present to point out that I was about to place the roof into the slot for the side wall.


But I couldn’t help getting frustrated that the icing didn’t come out in those darling little scallop puffs like on the cover of the box. My “wreath” looked nothing like the photo, and how on earth was I supposed to outline the windows with any precision using an icing bag with a hole cut in it? And when my daughter wasn’t trying to sneak the “whimsical” decorations into her mouth, I found myself telling her: “No! Not there!” or “Those candy beads are supposed to be the snowman’s buttons — not the roof’s shingles!” 


Perfection is overrated. Photo courtesy of Williams-Sonoma.

Perfection is overrated. Photo courtesy of Williams-Sonoma.


Eventually, of course, I realized how much fun she was having making our gingerbread house with her mom and dad. The fact that I brought out marshmallows and stale gummy bears from our pantry for extra decorations put her over the moon!


Sure, our gingerbread house is no masterpiece — I think the building department would issue many code violations, in fact — but no one said Christmas memories have to be straight out of a copy of Martha Stewart Living. (In fact, given the book that Alexis Stewart just wrote about her mom, it’s probably for the best.)


Still, I decided to nix the idea of the coconut “snow.” I had enough trouble getting the green icing off my carpet without adding coconut to it.


Less than two days after making our gingerbread house, the experience has already transformed into a warm, fuzzy memory. Now can someone tell me how long I need to keep this thing on my kitchen counter?


Tara Burghart is the editor and founder of Go West Young Mom. She occasionally writes a column called “Simple, Really?” examining why simplying her life seems to be a complex undertaking. She planned to write today about the adorable Christmas ornaments she and her daughter made, until they didn’t turn out so adorable.

7 thoughts on “Simple, Really? Creating a Gingerbread ‘Masterpiece’

  1. MommyToOne

    I love the William Sonoma kits…until my sister found an almost identical kit (with the fool proof tray) at Aldi for $5. Price doesn't necessarily equal quality on holiday items! Stock up for next year 🙂

  2. Tara Burghart

    Thanks for the tip, MommyToOne! I was definitely skeptical that Williams-Sonoma was the only place selling a gingerbread house with a "foolproof tray." Hee. Hee. There are definitely a few holiday things that I plan to pick up next week when they are on clearance!

  3. Andrea

    We tried a train this year and it took us two days. We went to Wal-mart and they had the house, train, townhouse and village. It looks nothing like the box, I'm pretty sure it's gonna de-rail any minute, but like you said it's all about the memories. Oh, and as for how long you keep it, my friend has a tradition that after Christmas (or maybe it's New Years) her 2 boys put on goggles, and take a hammer to it. Pieces go everywhere and they have a blast. (She swears she read that somewhere but can't find where) I just dump mine into the garbage can.

  4. Veronica

    We got the same one! Aaron was into it for about 30 seconds. I think Dan really enjoyed himself though! He said it was pretty much idiot-proof, but I still managed to get fired from all frosting duties! Definitely fun memories! 🙂

  5. Melanie

    You should see our gingerbread house…. at one point we had a "superhero" action figure holding up the roof. It's still standing, but looks like it belongs on the "other side of the tracks". We are proudly displaying it however.

  6. Jamie

    Ours looked just like the first picture too…must have bought the same one ; ) We picked it up at aldi also…at only $5, how could you beat it!

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