November 23, 2009

gingerbread starts with g

**updated with new pictures!**

Gingerbread is a long standing tradition in our family.
Gingerbread cookies, dressed in royal icing overalls and aprons...
but most especially gingerbread houses.

Somewhere in that ever-creative mind of hers, my Mom dreamed up a gingerbread house design, and went to work. She sold them at craft fairs... and by word of mouth. They were as delicious as they were beautiful. Some years there were 300... and other years many less. Some years they sold... and I remember one year when they didn't. Boxes were piled high by the door... to be donated somewhere. Thinking back, I can only imagine a fraction of the pain in her heart, as I am sure we could have used the money from the sales... or even just for the supplies. But she gave them away... and never let on her disappointment. And every fall, the Big Bertha mixer would be fired up once again... and the scent of cloves and ginger and molasses filled the house.
I do remember a summer... when the mixing started early. For just one house. My Mom entered the Good Housekeeping gingerbread house contest. It was a mansion. Two stories. A veranda with a gazebo and delicately piped railings. A Pez chimney... and royal icing fir trees. It was... beyond spectacular. And we all just knew that this house would adorn the front cover of the magazine. Somehow... we were wrong. And when the issue was delivered to our house we were astonished. The winning house may have been deserving... to their eyes, not ours... but it was the second place house that boggled our minds. It was a roughly made version of the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe. And I knew that not even rose-colored glasses would make it appear more lovely than the mansion that my Mom had built with hope and anticipation.

Making the gingerbread houses became a family affair. When we were too little to place the candies just so, we sorted them. Buckets upon buckets of Necco Wafer "shingles" were sorted piece by piece. And we could only eat one if it was broken. We did graduate to placing the candy on the house... and that is one of my favorite memories. Mom would squirt out the royal icing and my job was to come along behind and place and space the M&M's just so. I was used to doing things quickly to please my Mom... and so I did my best to be fast and accurate. It became a racing game... which made us both laugh. And to this day is we start a task together she will say No Racing! But I can't ever seem to help myself.
As the years went on... my Gramma took over the shingle sorting job... and my sister & I helped more and more with the decorating. All sorts of jobs... snowing at the base of the house... planting gumdrop flowers and candy canes... even playing Mother Nature and snowing on the roof. Beautiful memories... every one.
Florida's humidity is too much for gingerbread houses... and the special order cookie cutter no longer punches out villages of houses. But on the morning of Christmas Eve... my Mom will make gingerbread houses with her grandkids. It won't matter where the M&M's get placed... or if the snow covers the entire roof. It won't even matter if one of the kids licks their fingers before they touch the candy. It is just a tradition... carrying on in a new sort of way. And it makes my heart smile.



It is A to Z Monday at Jen's... I wonder what she has cooked up over there.

13 comments:

Mildred said...

What beautiful memories Dawn. You know I have never made a gingerbread house. I remember visiting Colonial Williamsburg and gobbling down several gingerbread cookies! Do you have a photo of the mansion your Mom entered in the Good Housekeeping contest? It sounds fabulous. These are great photos of your children with their houses.

Ben said...

Those gingerbread houses can certainly get ornate! Reminds me of the time my sister Margaret tried to eat a fake gingerbread tree ornament at a friend's house. The bite mark is probably there to this day!

Tina said...

The momory is so vivid. The smell now remminds me of home. And no question, that gingerbread house was spectacular.

I used to dread the smell, but love it now. NECCO wafers, yuck, except for the brown and yellow ones, now I would love any color. Running out of the fire staions and the nursing homes as quickly as we ran in to drop off a beautifully wrapped house.
xoxox

Jen said...

Happy Monday Dawn!
Your G looks D-lish! although I don't think I have ever eaten one-I thought they were just to look at. ha.
Your story is amazing tho, I only ever made one, and it was from a kit.

Cassie said...

Great G and fab gingerbread houses! We too do gingerbread at our home...Patrick is the official gigerbread man. He cuts 'em out and bakes 'em & we ALL eat 'em. Happy Monday and Happy Thanksgiving dear lady.

K said...

I think I'm inspired to make my first gingerbread house.

Busy Bee Suz said...

What a beautiful piece of "Dawn" history. I love your Mom more and more every time you write a piece about her....She, along with you are making such great memories for those wonderful kids!

Ruby Red Slippers said...

Wow. What a neat story! I was rooting for your mom to win that Good Housekeeping cover! I am disappointed along with you guys!
I have never made a gingerbread house, but I think we just might after reading this...what memories!
{We have made gingerbread men-but we need to try a house!}
Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Margaret said...

Thank you dear brother, for bringing up that story. (see above comment from Ben) ;)
My kids used to love to bake gingerbread men and decorate them. My daughter used to call them "cookie men". Have fun!
And have a good Thanksgiving!

Kelli said...

I love the way you share your memories with us. I can smell the gingerbread now!!!

julie said...

what a great story! what a wonderful memory! your mom sounds very talented! we do a gingerbread house every year with our kiddos! but they taste awful! will your mom share her recipe? xo

Hillary @ The Other Mama said...

oh my gosh! Absolutely beautiful!! How did she not win? Seriously?
And that is a wonderful story. I love great family traditions... especially edible ones! You did eat them, right?
They are almost too pretty to eat, though!

Get Real Girl said...

Wow! I have never made Gingerbread houses with my girls. That is a goal this year. I think that we would all love it! Thanks for the inspiration.