Monday, December 29, 2008

Buzzwords of 2008

I thought this was pretty interesting...

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Favorite Christmas Carol

Since for me, the celebration of the birth of Christ lives on past December 25th, I put set Pandora to "Classic Christmas" today. This first song it picked for me has long been one of my very favorites.

What child is this, who lays to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring him praise,
The babe, the son of Mary.

So bring him incense, gold and myrrh
Come, peasant king, to own him.
The King of Kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone him.

For me, this song gets at the wonder of a baby that warrants angel songs and visiting shepherds. What kind of baby could it be? Not just any baby.

Only the King of Kings. The One who would later suffer, and who, through His death, would conquer death and sin. The One who brings salvation, indeed.

What an incredible gift.

Let my heart love and enthrone Him.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Wishing you and yours a wonderful time of celebration.

The King is born, let the earth rejoice.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Colorado, Days 3 & 4

Yesterday we took the day off from skiing and had some nice family time. Our activities were low key - eating, playing cards, and going out to see Australia.
My arms and legs were very thankful for the break.

Today we were at nearby Beaver Creek.

Fall Total: 3
Today it was extra chilly, so we took an extra break for hot cocoa.

On the chair lift...
Beaver Creek is great for mountain views. We'd see sights like this at various turns.

So I was trying to take a picture of myself with the mountains in the background, but clearly took it a little close. However, upon further investigation I realized that in this picture you can not only see my mitten + camera, but ski runs in the background. See? It's artistic.

Ahh, that's better.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Colorado, Day 2

Fall Total: 5 (But they were much less spectacular than yesterday's)

One of my (many) favorite parts of skiing? It doesn't matter what your hair looks like. Case in point:
(I was originally in this picture, sporting an awesome hairdo, but it also included a rather unsightly double chin, so I cropped myself out.)

Me, a bit of a wimp when it comes to the cold. Josh usually skis with his face bare (like the next picture.) Me, on the other hand? Every inch of skin covered up.

Josh was a little ticked at me for taking this one. Stop trying to ski and take pictures at the same time!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Colorado, Day 1

Signing in from Vail, CO! We're here safe and sound.

Today we skiied Vail, and oh it was fun.

sunny + not too cold + good snow = wonderful skiing

Fall total: 3

Here is one of my better falls of the day - i bit it at the top of the hill and slid down about 100 ft on my back with my head pointed down the hill. I made Josh take my picture for your viewing pleasure. As he was taking it people kept stopping by to ask if I was okay.

No broken bones - yet!

Stay tuned for additional vacation pics throughout this week.

Friday, December 19, 2008

One of my favorite things about the holidays...

I love, love, love getting Christmas cards.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ethnic Food

Yesterday I had the privilege of eating lunch with two friends - Sneha, from India, and Laura, from Mexico. Sneha had invited Laura and me over the week before for authentic Indian home cookin'.

And let me tell you, it was delicious. Sneha spoiled us rotten with four courses! I don't remember names, but it was all incredible - and very different from the types of dishes I usually make at home! We're talking soups and rice dishes and a variety of different sauces, and then sweet tapioca-like stuff for dessert. MM MM MM. What a treat! They pretty much had to roll me out of her apartment when we were done.

I'd soon like to return the treat, and have them both over for American food sometime.

But really, what IS classic American food? Don't we just borrow from everyone else? We eat a lot of tacos and pasta around our house! I asked Sneha and Laura what they'd like, and they requested mashed potatoes and apple pie. Those things I can do, thankfully! I'm thinking of doing a classic post-church Sunday dinner with a roast, applesauce, and vegetables.

(Is that just a Dutch-American thing to do for lunch on Sunday? Or is that a traditional Sunday lunch all across America? It was the thing to do on both sides of my family.)

But back to my question - what IS classic American food? Here is what I've come up with, with a little help from friends:

Mac n' cheese
Mashed Potatoes
Apple Pie
Fried Chicken

What AM I missing?  There have got to be more options!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ice Storm

Yep, we've got one today here in Southern Indiana.

This morning Josh headed out of the front door to head to class, took one step outside, and wiped out on the ice.

Upon booting up his computer in class, he realized that he'd not only fallen, but fallen on his laptop case. Which resulted in a cracked laptop screen.

So much for a class that is all about computer stuff.

Thankfully he bought his computer through the university, and they have an on-site repair shop that will fix it for free. Unfortunately, however, they may not have the new screen in place by the time we leave on Friday.

Which means he is now facing three weeks of Christmas vacation without his fifth limb. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

4 More Days

Can't wait to be here (Vail, CO):

Doing this:

And hopefully not doing this:

With me, however, terrific falls are an hourly occurence. So as long as we have #1 and #2 down, I'll be a happy girl.

Wordless... uh... Tuesday: A Night With Friends

the girls:

... and the boys:

We wish they were ALL moving to Columbus with us! However, we're thankful we're getting at least one couple.

(Wordless? Not so much. But you get the idea.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Cookies This Time

We've moved past gingerbread, and we're on to cookies.

I spent Friday night in Grand Rapids, after having a work engagement in Lansing earlier that day, and unexpectedly got to take part in cookie baking and decorating with kids at my parents' house. It was totally fun! We had five kids, one teenager, three adults, and enough sugar to have the entire place buzzing. 

The kids in question? Three of them are my cousin John's children, and three of them friends from my parents' church. It has been a rough few months for both families, but hopefully they were able to enjoy a night of sugary fun.

Here we are in the cookie cutter stage! Each kid picked out their own shapes and decorated them later on.

My dad & Corinna

Emma kept me cracking me up all evening. Here, however, we were all too serious about cookie decorating.

All kinds of decorating fun.

My parents have an incredible gift and heart for opening their home to others. We're talking kids from church, grown up nieces and nephews, adult friends, all kinds of people. As I spend time there as an adult, I'm often struck by their open door and welcoming attitude. They truly love nothing more than spending quality time with people in their own living room. Most of the time things aren't too elaborate - just a drink and simple appetizers. Talking and sharing with people they care about is what is important to them.

If you have something to celebrate? Come on in. Is life really rough right now? Hang out here, and we'll hand you a big glass of wine. And listen.

It is truly how I want my home to be.

And they really love doing things with kids, too. Plus, they know from experience that parents can use a break! They don't have grandkids of their own, but it doesn't stop them! With this group in particular they're setting up one night a month where the parents just drop the kids off and head out. Then, when the parents return from a night out, they put a movie on for the kids in the other room and hang out with the adults. They love every second of those evenings. And I love just watching them in action.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

South 'til you smell it, East 'til you step in it

In case you're unfamiliar with this delightfully refined insult, it is the way Wolverines like to describe that despised scarlet-and-gray city in central Ohio.

And that is where we're moving in May.

Us - moving to the Den of Sin, the home of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Or as one friend put it, Wolverine Hell.

But you know what? We're really excited.

We visited this past weekend, courtesy of Josh's soon-to-be employer. They put us up in a hotel, sent us around town with a realtor, and set up dinner reservations for us with young couple from the company. AND when we got into the hotel room, what was there but a bottle of wine, flowers (addressed to me!) and chocolate truffles?

You had me at chocolate rum truffles.

It was fun being spoiled, that is for sure. But more than that, we really appreciated the opportunity to get to know the area. It is a bigger city - I think 1.5 million in the area - and it seems like there is a lot going on. Darling neighborhoods, sweet malls, great-looking restaurants, all kinds of things. Now we're itching to get back and explore more!

Some of our favorite, albeit somewhat shallow "discoveries?"

1. Short North - A fun, trendy neighborhood for a night out - complete with tons of little restaurants, shops, galleries, and even a gourmet dog treat store. Riley MAY have gotten a souvenir from that place. We looked for a stuffed buckeye he could immediately tear up, but couldn't find one.  

2. Jeni's - We'd had a couple of ice cream recommendations for a place called Jeni's, and thought we'd try it out one night. That night turned out to be a snow storm, and it took us about 20 minutes to park. As we were walking there in the bitter cold with snow blowing around us, Josh said to me, I can’t believe we’re doing this for ice cream, of all things. But when we finally made it through the door, we were shocked to find a long line of customers waiting to be helped. A full house! In the middle of a snow storm! You know then that it MUST be good. And it was – holy cow it was. They have unusual flavors, like Salted Caramel, Goat Cheese w/ Cognac Fig Sauce, and Blood Orange.  I don't think you can tell from this picture just how packed out it was, so you'll just have to trust me.  Or come visit and taste for yourself.

3. Easton Town Center – Mall Heaven. One of the nicest I’ve ever seen – seriously. I wouldn’t consider Josh or myself to be huge spenders, but we do enjoy an afternoon of browsing stores at a mall. Yes, Josh, too.  And this one has a Container Store (can't wait to get back there), Smith & Hawken (a Pottery Barnish type for gardens and patios), a Melting Pot, and oh so much more. Bloomington is a disappointment, mall-wise. But Columbus? Excellent.

4. Cute Neighborhoods - When we drove around with a realtor, we were excited to find a bunch of places that looked "home-ish" to us.  Granted, the cutest of the cute are out of our price range.  But a girl can dream, right?

5. Good steak - So far we've only been to one steak restaurant in town, but oh it was good.

6. Low cost of living - besides the pricey darling neighborhoods, it just isn't all that expensive to live in central Ohio. And even those areas aren't nearly as bad as places like Chicagoland, Seattle, etc. For people like us that try to be frugal/responsible, it is good news.

7. Two P.F. Chang's - I LOVE P.F. Chang's. Totally and completely.  We've never lived in the same town as one before, although they are usually not too hard to find (Lansing, Cincinnati, Indy).  But Columbus actually has two, one of which is at Easton.  Even Josh, who doesn't care for Chinese food too much, tolerates P.F. Chang's.  Mostly for me - he's just that sweet.

Honestly, we would be thrilled to be going anywhere. In this type of economy, jobs can be hard to come by. We're so thankful for the incredible blessing of a job. Any job. God not only provided that, but it happens to be a job Josh is really excited about. Not only that, but it is located in a place we really like, Buckeyes and all. We're so excited about our new home. Thank you, thank you Lord.

Another surprising blessing in this whole process is that some of our bestest Bloomington friends, Lora and Patrick, are moving to Columbus WITH us. How fun is that?

In describing these things I keep thinking about Sarah's cookies - that God sometimes blesses us with wonderful things (like a job) AND continues to bless us with things we haven't even asked for. 

For those of you who aren't avid Short Stop readers, Sarah is doing an incredible series on cookies, and how each kind can teach her kids about God, faith, and the Christmas season.  Each day in advent they're making a different type, and learning a lesson along the way.  Plus, the cookie recipes look incredible.  

Friday, December 5, 2008

Memory Lane Update

For those of you who thought I was the kid on the right in this picture, you're right! I (clearly) had crazy curly hair as a child, inherited from my dad.  My brother Ben still sports the curls.

With me in the picture are four of my cousins - Kerry and Eric in the back seat, and Chrystin (left) and Erin (middle) in the front. Chrystin and Erin were and are some of my favorite-ist cousins. We were borderline inseparable as kids, and to this day continue to be close.  

And that outfit I had on?  I still remember it as a favorite.  I mean, what's not to love about pink hearts and cherries?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Baby Craft Project

So you all know by now that a plethora of babies have made their way into the lives of our friends. We couldn't be more excited for these families.

And by we, I mean I couldn't be more excited. Josh doesn't mind babies too much - as long as they don't spit up - but the level of excitement he can muster over other people's kids is comparatively low. But here he is with Rina, doing an excellent job:

So back in August or so I was reading some blogs and came across this post about DIY baby burp cloths, which can make for excellent baby gifts. AND there were very simple step-by-step instructions + pictures included. Perfect for a sewing novice like myself. Thank you Rocks In My Dryer.

The pattern? Two pieces of printer paper taped together, with the corners rounded off. My type of sewing project.

AND I had a blast picking out adorable flannel for each one. JoAnn's, Hobby Lobby, AND Etsy all had some great options. Easy, personal, fun, and if you buy flannel on sale (which it is 75% of the time, it seems) not too expensive.

So now that these babies are all born and the gifts have been given, I get to do a show-and-tell with you all. Had I done it any sooner it would have ruined the fun for the recipients. So here they are!

These went to Rina:

These to Brody:

These to Noah:

And these to Lucy:

I paired each one with a Jesus Storybook Bible (my favorite baby gift - read more about it here) and voila! I had so much fun putting these together.

And moms of these babies? Don't look too close at the seams.

Bah Humbug

I have to admit, I had a bad attitude about advent this year.  Yes, even advent-calendar-making, gingerbread-house-decorating me.

I was tempted to not even decorate our apartment. My thought process? Its already early December, and we leave here to spend the holidays with family on the 20th. And then won't return until early January. What's the point?

Josh and I did the Black Friday thing with my parents, and that was fun. Then my mom and I hit the fabulous indie stores on Wealthy and Cherry Streets the next day, and found some more cute things. But when I got back to Bloomington I started to get into anxious "list" mode. The yikes I'm totally overwhelmed am I going to get it all done feeling. I was torn between wanting to go against the hyper-consumer side of Christmas and yet still enjoying the retail hustle and bustle. I feel convicted to simplify my life, but don't know if that means cutting back on what I buy others. Plus, the economy could probably use my dollars right around now, right?  I just had that uneasy feeling about it all, and it put a damper on my joy for this season.

Then today I found myself on this website and was completely refreshed.  Have you heard of this movement?  It is called The Advent Conspiracy and they're all about getting back to what Christmas should be all about. They have set four basic principles for the season:

Worship Fully
Spend Less
Give More
Love All

Amen. Exactly what I needed to read/learn/remember. Especially that first part - the one about worship. Here is what the website has to say about it (and I totally encourage you to go there and read more):

It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.

I realized today that my uneasiness and worry and stress was clouding out the joy of advent. I had a git r' dun attitude instead of awe at the thought of God's incredible gift to earth. I forgot that there is something good and profound about a season of waiting in hopeful anticipation. I had made it about me (my worries, my shopping, my time), but the birth of Jesus deserves to be celebrated to the fullest. I'm so thankful that God didn't let me walk down that path for too long. His gift is too special to be overlooked.

Moving forward, I will try to simplify here and there. But I love giving gifts. I don't plan to go overboard, but I'm not going to feel guilty for buying presents either. I don't think that's the point. And as you may have noticed, I love making things. So that may enter in, too. Either way, there is freedom.

But what I really want to do is celebrate the birth of Christ. God loved me so much that he didn't want to be separated from me, and he sent his son to the world to die in my place. Incredible.

I'm going to enjoy every moment of time spent with family and friends. I'm going to do extra-special things with Josh and Riley over the next few weeks - even if it means something as simple as blaring Baby, It's Cold Outside in our apartment and dancing to it. And while I know that decorations don't really matter, I'm still going to put them up. Hope, love, and joy matter a lot, and lights and ornaments bring a little more of them into my life.

How's that for a Charlie Brown turnaround?

And for those of you purchasing presents for me this season, consider buying fewer. Let's do something fun together instead. Or, instead of a sweater, get me a couple of chickens.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Memory Lane

When I was in Grand Rapids last week, I scanned a couple of kiddie pictures of myself for blog share-age.

This one is a favorite of me and four of my cousins. Can you guess which kid I am?  

There's more where this came from!  Stay tuned... 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Random Meme

I got this over email from my friend Chris, and thought it looked fun.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? A couple days ago
3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING ? Usually, but I wish it were neater sometimes
5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? Not unless Riley counts.
7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A Lot? All the time. And that increased when I married Josh.
8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS ? Tonsils - yes, wisdom teeth - no.
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? I'd love to, but Josh would kill me (he isn't a fan of me doing anything remotely dangerous.
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Archer Farms Triple Berry Crunch
11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? Most of my shoes don't have laces these days. But when I am wearing lace-ups, I don't untie them.
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Haagen Dazs Strawberry, all the way.
15. RED OR PINK? I used to be pink all the way, but would now actually say red.
16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? I wish I were more disciplined.
17. WHOM DO YOU MISS THE MOST ? I can't pick ONE friend or family member! I miss them all.
18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU (or post it on their blog)? Sure!
19. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Red jammie pants, no shoes.
20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Archer Farms Triple Berry Crunch
21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Mike & Mike in the Morning is on in the distant background.
23. FAVORITE SMELLS? Lavender, fresh brewed coffee, coconut shampoo, a pot roast in the oven
27. HAIR COLOR? Blondish
28. EYE COLOR? Blue
29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Yes. I'm blind as a bat and my glasses are terribly thick. Neither alternative is a good look.
30. FAVORITE FOOD? So tough! I'm craving Indian food right now, but I love a good Hawaiian pizza, stir fry, mashed potatoes, and raspberries.
32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? WALL-E - and loved it!
33. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? Dark blue, with "Grand Canyon National Park" stamped on it.
34. SUMMER OR WINTER? Winter - I like winter clothes better.
35. HUGS OR KISSES? It depends who it is from.
36. FAVORITE DESSERT? Pie from Grand Traverse Pie Co. (have you GR folks gone there yet? It is TO DIE FOR)
37. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? About 4 different books. But I need to start All the Pretty Horses for book club next week.
38. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water
39. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? Jon & Kate Plus 8 (it showed them on their book tour promoting Multiple Blessings)
40. FAVORITE SOUND? Someone reading to me. I like listening to audio books.
42. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Istanbul (I love it there!)
43. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Nothing too exciting.
44. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Grand Rapids, MI

Sunday, November 30, 2008

All About Gingerbreads: Part 6 (& Final)

Witte Thanksgiving Gingerbread Night 2008, in video form. Enjoy!

This was my first time making my own video, and it was totally fun!  For more on the Gingerbread tradition, head over to Annette's blog.

Friday, November 28, 2008

All About Gingerbreads: Part 5

Well, the gingerbread festivities are over.  Mostly.

And oh, we had fun.  Crazy, messy, busy, sticky fun.  We're talking kids running all over, covered in frosting, adults getting political (more on that later), and even a gingerbread demise.  And then my mom was unable to finish since my dad ate her roofing material.  I'll post pictures soon, I promise.  

But before I do, I'd like to dedicate a post to classic Decorating Fixin's.  By this I mean various food/candy items to use for roofs, siding, sidewalks, shutters, etc for your gingerbread creation.  

House Walls
-plain old graham crackers or gingerbread
-sugar cubes
-pretzel sticks
-sticks of gum

-cereal like Frosted Mini-Wheats or Chex
-mini Nilla Wafers
-candy! Smartees, licorice, gum drops, etc.
-gum, once again

Other Ideas for the House
-layered wafer cookies for shutters, doors
-Necco's broken into pieces for a fieldstone effect

-regular or mini M&Ms
-candy buttons

-gummy trees
-sugar cones turned upside down and plastered with green frosting
-Chicklets or other flat candy for a path or sidewalk
-Rice Krispies died green and molded into shrubbery

-candy canes
-red hots
-jelly beans
-Mike& Ikes
-gum drops
-candy corn
-coconut (makes for great-looking snow!)

Is there anything I'm missing? Leave it here! We're always looking for new ideas.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

All About Gingerbreads: Part 4

Today's Installment: Gingerbreads Through The Years

Christina & her creation, 1997-ish

A six-pack container makes an excellent base, and pretzels make for a cute log cabin look.

Don't fall over... don't fall over. Me (middle school aged) with what I think was supposed to be a church.

I usually went with Wolverine-inspired designs when I was in college. Not sure why my brother Ben didn't want to smile for this picture.

To get everyone in one place, we set up long folding tables set up in the middle of my parents' living room. I think this was somewhere around 2003.
Someone is always mixing frosting!

Gingerbread fun for big and small - Derek & Mirabella.

Rachel and Emma at last year's event.

Uncle Dan working on a carosel.

My brother Ben last year.

Okay, family - I KNOW you have more pictures! Send 'em to me and I'll post more!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

All About Gingerbreads: Part 3

Today I'll be focusing on some key tips regarding:

Windows, Frosting, and Construction.

As a bonus, my mom, the gingerbread queen, has graciously agreed to guest post on the delicate art of construction.

But first, the Windows.

If you want to continue down the road of hardcore gingerbread house making, you can actually add window panes to your house. The process is actually super easy, and you can find the directions right here.

If you do windows, you can light up the house from the inside and the whole thing glows. All you have to do is dump a string of white lights into the center of the structure as you're putting it together, leaving the plug outside. A very nice effect, but not at all essential to the process.

Next, the Frosting.

The right frosting is key to the entire process, because it is literally the glue that holds the entire project together. The tubs of frosting that you can buy in the bakery aisle are okay, but they aren't usually sticky or sturdy enough to work well. We go with this option:

Royal Frosting

3 T Wilton Meringue Powder (found at Michaels, look for 40% off coupon)
4 C powdered sugar
6 T warm water

Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (5-7 minutes at low speed with a heavy duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer). It will need to flow fairly easily out of a decorating bag, so if it seems too stiff, add 1 TBS more of warm water.

While you can purchase special piping bags from craft stores, we've found that spooning a bunch of frosting into cheap sandwich baggies works quite well. Just cut a tiny bit off of one corner and always hold onto it from the back.

And, direct from my mom (in green), some basics on Gingerbread House Construction:

This does require quite a bit of patience and lots of water bottles to hold up your pieces, due to the fact that we do only have 2 hands!

Take a piece of wood and cover with a piece of tin foil.

Start by placing the front piece and attach a side piece with a fair amount of royal frosting (see above for recipe) to the seam. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE STORE BOUGHT FROSTING TUBS. Royal frosting is like cement and you want to use the frosting with the most heft. Make sure you position these first two pieces towards the back of your wooden base, so you can add trees, landscaping and perhaps an ice skating rink to your front yard. Place full water bottles on each side of the pieces to hold it together. Run a pipe of frosting on the inside seam as well as the base of the pieces.

Now add your back piece and then the other side piece, using water bottles to hold these pieces in place, and add additional frosting to the inside and outside seams.

This is the time to QUIT for the night!!!!! DO NOT TRY TO ADJUST PIECES!!!!
You will be covering most of it in frosting and decorations so if your sides aren’t exactly plum, it doesn’t matter.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ADD ADDITIONAL PIECES OR TO PUT THE ROOF ON!!!!! It would be a disaster and will spoil your gingerbread house fun from now and forever more!

The next day (no, not 4 hours later, I mean at least 10 -12 hours later), you can add your roof pieces, very carefully and tenderly. You could enlist someone to hold a roof piece in place while you attach the second roof side. A patient husband who is not clumsy would work, but probably not your 4 year old child.

Once your roof is on, you will need to wait another day for the real fun to begin….you know what that is…DECORATING NIGHT!!!! I promise you, it is all worth it!

Here is my house, all put together, complete with butterscotch windows! I can't take credit for the construction.

Finally, a disclaimer about this fancy gingerbread process:

Do not feel like you need to go through all this trouble for pure gingerbread fun.

The real fun is in the decorating, so you can buy a kit containing the pieces already baked (which you would still need to assemble…see above for tips on construction) or use graham crackers attached to a milk cartons or 6 pack holders.

Welcome Noah Christopher!

So I have to interrupt the week o' gingerbreads with this exciting baby news!

Our good friends Chris and DeeDee welcomed this darling little guy into their family on Sunday afternoon.  Noah Christopher and his mom are doing great!

AND I'm totally geeked to drive to Ann Arbor this afternoon to meet him.

Monday, November 24, 2008

All About Gingerbreads: Part 2

Today I'll focus on the art of Making and Baking gingerbread.

First of all, the recipe!  We've found that this is an excellent recipe, as it makes for very sturdy gingerbread.  Perfect for house-making!  My mom found the recipe online, but the website has since disappeared.  If you're looking for something that actually tastes good, try a gingerbread cookie recipe.   More on that below.

Loreta’s Favorite Gingerbread Dough

5 C flour
1 t salt
2 t ginger
2 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 t cloves
1 C shortening
1 C sugar
1 ¼ C molasses
2 eggs, beaten

You'll also need a fair amount of aluminum foil

Melt shortening in a saucepan on the stove over low heat. While shortening is melting, mix flour, salt, and spices together in a separate bowl. If you have a stand mixer, this is the time to use it! Mix together eggs, sugar, and molasses, and then add the shortening (when melted) to it. Mix quickly so that the eggs don’t cook. Slowly add in flour mixture, and mix well. Dough will be soft. Roll into several baseball-sized balls and wrap individually in plastic wrap, then place them in the refrigerator until firm (we usually do overnight).

Our dough balls, taking up an entire shelf! Granted, we DID make four batches.

When dough is firm, remove from refrigerator and let sit until room temperature (about 1 hour). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When ready to roll out and bake, sprinkle water onto your counter top, and then cut a piece of aluminum foil off of the roll. Place the foil down over the water. The water on the counter will prevent the foil from slipping while the dough is being rolled out. Sprinkle foil with flour.

Take one ball (2 max for a large piece) and place it on the foil. Roll out with a rolling pin that has been also sprinkled with flour. If the dough is too stiff for rolling out, microwave it for 10-15 seconds to soften it.

In this order: Counter top, water, foil, flour, dough, flour, rolling pin.

Roll dough out to about 1/8 inch. Place gingerbread house pattern pieces onto dough that has been sprinkled with flour and use a knife or pizza cutter to cut around the mold. Don’t forget the windows. Remove excess dough, and lift entire piece of foil onto cookie sheet.

Here is my mom's template, all taped together.  She pulled it apart later so that she could use the pieces for her pattern.

My mom's friend, Karen, cutting a roof piece.

Bake 6-7 minutes for small pieces, and up to 14 for large pieces. Check often to prevent burning. Roof pieces can be baked for longer, until almost burnt. This can prevent sagging later on.  If they come out a little bit warped, you can pat them into place while they're still hot.

Unused dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

When dough pieces are done baking, remove baking sheet from oven. Quickly lift foil from making sheet and place on a flat area to cool. Let them cool overnight, and gently peel foil off of gingerbread pieces. Now you are ready to assemble, or add windows!  More on that tomorrow!

A note on gingerbread cookies, as an add-on or alternative to the classic house:

We decided on Sunday to go ahead and whip up some gingerbread cookies, so that for those people who show up to the party without a pre-constructed house to work with can still get in on the decorating fun.  We used a simple Betty Crocker recipe for the cookies, and they do taste much better.  Other than the recipe and the final shapes, the method is 100% the same.  Lots of flour, rolling pins, and foil.  Oh, and cute cookie cutters help quite a bit.

Check out the awesome morning hair I'm sporting!

Our darling gingerbread men! I may have to decorate one of these guys, too.