Saturday, November 26, 2016

Celebrating a Decade of Gingerbread Houses - The First 5 Years

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You know, looking back I guess Mr. Steady and I always had an interest in construction and design. So our recent renovation endeavors should really come as no surprise....although we started on a much smaller scale:
We decorated a gingerbread house (kit) together the first year we were married. We are about to celebrate our 10th anniversary (yay!). Although we haven't done our Gingerbread House Challenge every single year, we have tried to make it a family tradition and we are super excited to start on our 2016 masterpieces!

In celebration of a decade gone by, I'd like to share with you some of our favorite creations and why they are special.  I hope they are an inspiration to you and your family to begin a tradition of your own!

This is our very FIRST gingerbread house.
We started with a basic Wilton Kit. It came with the walls and roof, an icing pouch, and a variety of candy.  We thought we were pretty savvy to bring in additional materials (peppermint chocolate chips).  I know you are super impressed!  Haha! Looking back on this just cracks me up. We had only been married 2 weeks when we started - it was definitely a lesson in communication and collaboration. In the end we were both fairly disappointed with the result and vowed to make a competition out of it the following year so we could each "do our own style".
These sweet neighbors are the result of the vow from the previous year. Funny how "our own style" ended up looking so similar, but a vow is a vow.
We bought 2 Wilton Kits and started the challenge with a few rules:
1. We were each allowed to choose 1 decorating extra not included in the kit.
2. We won't tell our family/friends who made them and we'll hold a blind vote.
We were both finished in a few hours- racing to see who would create the better house.  We were also racing against the Houston weather - the candy was melting in the 80 degree humidity.
My house is on the left - a little over the top - like me!
Mr. Steady's house is the sensible house on the right - with the terribly warm snowman.



This year we brought our A-game! We started planning our design a few weeks in advance and were more than ready when the time came.  We purchased the gingerbread house kits just for the framework and scrapped all the candy decorations.  We purchased our replacement supplies at the dollar store - a meager investment for several evenings of bonding over the creative process.

In the end, Mr. Steady had a lot more vision than I did and took a bold step in branching out from the "typical" candy house. 
We tied in the blind vote, but I gave him the win out of respect for his courage and creativity.

This is when we knew we were hooked. We looked forward to the time of laughter and fun each year and knew we wanted to make it a family tradition.

This year was another collaboration. We had a 6 month old, just returned from a cross-country trip, and just didn't have the oomph to really go at it alone - so we joined efforts. 
We did, however, get a lot more resourceful in our choice of materials. Some friends of ours were cleaning out their pantry and found some expired items - they were offered to us for possible building materials. Stale crackers and sunflower seeds make great landscaping materials!
We also experimented a little by melting blue Jolly Ranchers down to make a pond and formed human figures from Starburst candies. As it turns out, Starburst doesn't really hold its shape in the Houston humidity. Glad we snapped these photos before they melted into colorful blobs!
We got it done and we had fun, but it was another confirmation that we really are better at "parallel play"....we needed our own house...our own ideas... a little bit of elbow room...and a baby that slept through the night.

 So....another vow:

Next year it was GAME ON!! 


 We started planning (secretly) our designs in January and didn't reveal our plans to each other until the fondant started flying.
*FYI: Fondant was this years gold mine! It's like play-dough for grown-ups (who make gingerbread houses like little kids....?) It's an annual staple now.
Anyway, this year we jumped from simply "decorating" to designing. We both started with the same kit pieces (roof and walls), cutting, adjusting, and adding to them to create an architectural design that was unique to our style. They turned out so drastically different, the original structure is hardly evident in the final products. 
Mr. Mint: I pulled the foundation corners in on the house for a more whimsical shape. I built up a "brick" crawlspace and porch with pillars and an overhang.  I also added a brick chimney protruding from the roof (not visible from this angle).
The Country Cottage: Mr. Steady turned his framework sideways, added a bay window and a full chimney stack (similar to his log cabin build a few years before) on the exterior wall.

Fondant was a big game changer - Mr. Mint and the garden veggies stayed fresh and perky for several weeks as we displayed and collected votes (I won by a landslide, by the way!). No effects from the humidity or fluctuating temperature. Awesome!
Well....that was the first 5 years of our Gingerbread House Tradition. Quite the learning curve, huh?

                                                      THE NEXT 5 YEARS OF FUN
 I would love to hear your comments, questions, and ideas. Do you have a gingerbread house tradition in your family? Would you like to start one? I'm also working on a HOW TO post for those of you just starting out.

From Our Home to Yours,

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