Friday, December 10, 2010

3rd Annual Gingerbread House Decorating Extravaganza

Last Friday I loaded up my suitcase and jumped on the Amtrak for my usual trek to Milwaukee to visit my (newly-married) friend Kari. The last two years we have taken over a December weekend and dedicated it to making a Gingerbread House. Although I will argue that it is starting to turn out to be less about the house and more about the scene that surrounds it. We may need to increase the size of the cookie sheet base next year!

In 2008, the idea came out of it being so frigidly cold outside that the idea of going out was not entertainable. So we hunkered down for the weekend and kept ourselves busy making a graham cracker house.
We decided quickly that this had to be an annual tradition. Last year, my mom and Bob got in on the fun and made their own houses which led to a contest on this very blog. We stuck with the blue, white and silver theme for "A Marshmallow World." Made buying candy pretty easy - if it wasn't the right color, don't buy it.
The idea of themed houses each year has endless possibilities. We also loved our Marshmallow Family so much that we are going to incorporate them into each house!
And so. . .without further ado, here is the 2010 house: "Marshmallow Family Goes On Vacation." We went with the beach house theme. The house is actually the same template as we used last year from Martha Stewart Online, but I did find this cool beach house template online. We decided at this level in our building careers we weren't quite ready for such a challenge.
Let's go back in time a day and a half from when that photo was taken. Here's what we started with:
We use candy melts bought at Michael's instead of the powdered sugar icing because it hardens in two seconds, making the actual house construction extremely easy and secure. We took some advice we got last year and used a double boiler to keep the icing from hardening before we wanted it to.  We also dyed the candy melts green since we couldn't just call all of the white icing in the cracks of the house and on the ground snow. Instead we call it moss.
One of our big projects was palm trees. I thought gum might work well to cut into palm frond shapes. Didn't Doublemint used to be green?? I was disappointed to open that first pack and find white pieces staring back up at me. Ahh well, nothing a little glue stick and green sprinkles couldn't cure. I tried sticking the gum pieces in a large gumdrop and covering with green icing and it seemed to work, but the gum became droopy after a minute. Wah, Wah.
To give the palm fronds some structure, we iced pretzel sticks to the backs. Now the key was to leave them alone so they could adhere to their trunks. Pepperidge Farm Pirouette Rolled Wafers had the perfect look! I have a bad habit of messing with things before they are dried so this resulted in at least one broken trunk. . .
While I struggled with the palm trees, Kari was building our Marshmallow Family. We added a dog to the family this year, and of course Santa had to make an appearance. They are modeling fruit roll up swim trunks and bikini along with their sun hats. Santa is made up of one jumbo marshmallow and braided pretzels. Mr. and Mrs. have jolly rancher and Starburst suitcases lined up at the door while Santa relaxes with a malted milk ball coconut drink. Our proportions leave something to be desired as one has to wonder how they will fit through the door. . . .
Dog and Baby play by the water, made up of icing and blue sprinkles. The sand is light brown sugar and I think is the most realistic looking part of the scene. For some reason the baby's face looks like he is crying. Maybe that jelly shark is getting a little too close!
Behind Santa is his bag filled with not toys but fruit! A fruit roll up molded into a bag shape holds Runts candies. Plus another shot of the coconut drink!
Looking on the other side of the house, we have ivy and fruit roll up roses lining the side of the house. Kari did all the flowers and I thought they looked awesome! Even if we had to deal with the fruit roll ups all having words written all over them! A palm tree with coconuts leads up a peanut brittle path along with tiki torches. The torches are braided pretzels with pistachio shells on top filled with orange gumdrops for a flame. The shredded wheat thatched roof adds to the beach house vibe.
The back of the house features another palm tree and more flowers. A couple ideas in our heads did not come to fruition but will have to be tackled in the future including melted jolly rancher surfboards and a braided hammock between the palm trees made out of licorice.
So there you have it: The 2010 Gingerbread House. A tropical theme that allowed us to buy all the brightly colored candy we could find. We are already brainstorming what next year's will look like. . .