Tonight I laughed until I literally peed. I also laughed so hard that I shot Coke through my nose, a feat that is a real skill for me. In other words we had a really fun night. I was not the only one in hysterics, everyone was in hysterics, and ate their weight in candy. Tonight we did our annual gingerbread houses (with a twist, because they were graham cracker houses). The gingerbread house tradition began when Gabe was just a baby (and I pretty much was too). Back then I decided that I would be super Mom and would bake my own gingerbread house and assemble it. It seemed pretty easy in the magazine (famous last words). I said a lot of words that night that would make sailors blush. Turns our the royal icing is not super glue, but only gives you a false sense of confidence. Oh that royal icing holds your pieces in place, until that is, you go to add the next piece... then it loosens its grip and brings the whole thing down like a house of cards. In retrospect it was for the best that Gabe was just a baby during that first attempted gingerbread house, he may have learned some words that I may not have wanted him to learn.
The years following that first infamous year had gingerbread houses bought in the form of a kit, and hot glued together. I had to stop hot gluing them after Gabe was no longer satisfied with just pulling off the candies, he wanted to eat the gingerbread. The gingerbread house tradition is a good tradition, it's a fun tradition. A few years ago I discovered edible hot glue, i.e. liquefied sugar. I obtained third degree burns on the tips of my finger tips, but on a positive note, I can now commit lots of crimes and they can't pin it on me.
This year I decided to make everyone their own house to decorate. We did this a few years ago and the kids loved it. I invited my parents over and made my Mom help me construct the graham cracker houses. Let me just say that neither the Ace of Cakes, nor the Cake Boss will be beating down my door any time soon begging me to make graham cracker houses for their shows. The kids didn't care that the houses were a bit wonky, they just cared that they got to decorate them, and eat candy until they felt sick (I'm pretty sure that's what my Dad also wanted).
I began the edible hot glue, by pouring about a cup of white sugar into my dutch oven. I melted it on medium low heat. I kept a constant watch, constantly stirring. Word of warning, you really have to watch the sugar and work quickly because the sugar burns quickly.
When all of the sugar had melted I began to dip the corners of the graham crackers in, and then quickly put them together. Mom and I had an assembly line that worked pretty good. Shockingly I did not burn myself even once (I know I am as surprised by this as you are).
I poured candy into bowls and put them in the center of the table. I would recommend using royal icing for the houses, but I am too lazy and mixed icing sugar with water. It was pretty running. I poured the icing into little ziplock bags and cut off the corner of the bag. I warned the kids that was the only icing sugar that they would receive so use it sparingly.
I said use the icing sugar sparingly, but as you can see by the pictures below, they were not good listeners. I kind of giggled a little when I looked over and saw Riley and Elly sucking the icing right out of their icing bags. They loved it and had icing in places I did not know that you could get icing into.
I usually really get caught up in making my gingerbread house beautiful, but not this time. This time I just kind of threw my decorations on (mainly because I found the running icing frustrating). I sat back and watched everyone else. Christopher is not normally all that artistic, but he painstakingly used Rockets to cover the roof of his house. He then used my mortar and pestle and ground up candy cane. I have to admit, it looked pretty cool when he poured the ground candy cane onto the wall of his house, like a Christmasy stucco.
Riley thought that Christopher's idea was so neat that she decided to copy it. She became tired and bored with the grinding and so she passed it along and made Popa do it. My Dad got a little carried away and powdered the candy cane into sugar. When we asked him about it, he just shrugged, hilarious.
We had a few hours of hilarity and it cost very little for that much entertainment. It was fun watching everyone interact, and trying to inconspicuously eat the candy instead of putting it on their houses. It really was fun to watch how artistic everyone became, each person had a different take on their house.
I have the houses safely stored up on top of my kitchen shelves. They are safe to be looked at, but not picked at, and certainly not eaten by a certain little trouble maker dog named Fergus.
The last part of this tradition is perhaps a little over the top. Christmas Eve Christopher brings up his hammer, the kids put on safety goggles. They then proceed to take turns demolishing the gingerbread house. They take great delight in smashing it, and then walking around eating large chunks of candy laden gingerbread. It's a pretty good tradition. It's uniquely ours, and I wouldn't change it for all of the money in the world.