Friday, December 9, 2011

How to survive making a gingerbread house with your kids...

Well, you came to the right place.  Oh sure, there are tons of tutorials out there, explaining how to make an adorable gingerbread house with your kids.

But none of them explain how to SURVIVE making an adorable gingerbread house with your kids. Because, really…what’s the point of doing a craft like this if you’re not going to live long enough to enjoy the outcome?

Here's where I come save you some peace of mind.  It's what I would've wanted someone to do for me so let's just say this is me, paying it forward.

And I'm joining in with Charlene at Adventures-in-Mommy-Land for this awesome festival linky, where you can find a ton of other super fun Christmas crafts:

So, first know all those cardboard boxes that Santa's elves keep bringing by your house and you have no clue what to do with them once they're empty?  You can use them as the foundation for your house.  Just cut out a square, rectangle, circle...whatever shape you fancy.

This is a great job for the kids and it'll keep them busy for quite awhile.  That's a good thing, as Martha would say.


In the meantime, while they're busily cutting the cardboard (and preferably not cutting each other's fingers off), you can begin to cut the graham crackers into the house shape you like.

I found this amazing tutorial on Pinterest, which gives really good details on how to carve the shapes.  The key is a finely serrated knife and lots of patience.  Lots and lots of patience.  This blogger also shows how to assemble the house.

Try not to bang your head against a wall when you realize how many graham cracker scraps you'll have in the end...because you know there's no way your kids will accept a broken piece of cracker as a snack.

Just make a pie crust with all your spare time.  Come on, you know you have a total June Cleaver complex, just like I do.


Okay, now that you have your cardboard foundation and your graham cracker pieces (and your sanity, I'm assuming), cover the foundation pieces in foil.


Empty all your candy, crackers, pretzels, whatever you're using to decorate with into bowls or plates.  This makes it much easier for those little hands to grab whatever they need.

One year, we used those little square pretzel pieces for fences and long wafer cookies for the roof.   We also used marshmallows to make snowmen, upside down ice cream cones to make Christmas trees.  The ideas are endless...most importantly, just have fun!


In the tutorial that I mentioned above, the blogger advises using melted white chocolate to mold your houses and to decorate with because it dries more quickly than royal icing.

While this is accurate, if you're working with young children, I suggest using the chocolate to mold the houses BUT use royal icing to decorate, especially if you like having a full head of hair (because, trust me, you WILL want to rip every single piece out of your head each time you hear your kids complain, "Mommy, the chocolate is too hard")

I use the little white chocolate discs made by Wilton, which you can find at your local craft store or online.  They're super easy to melt in the microwave and then I pour it into disposable pastry bags...but you can also just leave it in the bowl and use a small knife to spread it on your crackers when assembling your house.

Whatever works best (and doesn't drive you to drink an entire bottle of wine before 3:00 pm) is my motto.

While the houses are hardening (I said "hardening"...heh, heh), go ahead and get started on making the royal icing since it takes about 10-12 minutes.  If you have a kitchen aid mixer, take advantage of it!!  If not, a hand mixer works fact, if you're feeling risky, let the kids hold the mixer to give your hands a break.  Make it even more intriguing for them by saying, "Whoever walks away from this project with all 10 fingers intact gets a prize!"

I use this royal icing recipe, which is totally no-fail and only requires 3 ingredients.  The meringue powder can be found at Joann's, Michael's and any other craft type store which sells baking supplies.  Oh and I never bother to sift my powdered sugar so don't feel like you need to either.

The royal icing will harden (I said "harden" I frisky today or what?) quickly if it's left out uncovered so you should spoon some into a bowl and then cover up what's left in your mixing bowl with a damp towel.  And then go back and fill up your bowl as you need more.

This is what your house should look like once it's assembled, minus the beautiful, bubbly child peering into the camera (though she could be yours if the price is right)....


This might also be a good time to warn your kids that if they ever repeat any of the "colorful" language that Mommy used while helping them assemble the houses, there's a good chance they'll end up on Santa's naughty list.

I set the houses towards the back of the cardboard so the kids can have some space to build a walkway, a marshmallow snowman, a mother desperately running away from her children or whatever they want...


Okay, comes the fun, stressful part (fun for the kids, stressful for the parent).  The decorating!

Put on some holiday music and get wild, have fun, be creative, drink some shots.  Oh wait, maybe not.  Unless of course it's just you and your girlfriends, then shots would be totally cool.

Once the decorating is underway, feel free to excuse yourself as often as necessary to go to your room and scream into a pillow.  Get the frustration out in a healthy manner.  No need for the kids to know you'd rather be pulling out your eyelashes one by one than listening to them fight over who gets the last green gum drop or why someone else has more pretzels than they do.

Good memories, people.  You're trying to create good memories for your children to look back on and cherish.  You want them to remember you smiling your way through this activity and not recalling, "Hey, remember that time we made gingerbread houses and we caught Mommy about to stab herself in the eyeballs with a fork?"



Aren't the finished products adorable??

Once they're done and the kids have gorged on candy as one of their main meals, you can display the houses anywhere for others to enjoy.   Believe it or not, they'll keep for an extremely long time (as evidenced by my MIL, who still has a gingerbread house I made her over 8 years ago).

Don't forget to pat yourself on the back for partaking in a wonderful holiday ritual with your children, even if they appear to be ungrateful.

And never fail to recognize how good it feels to step outside your comfort zone and do something wild and crazy...and live to tell about it.


January Dawn said...

You are a very brave woman Helene. I think I'll just buy the gingerbread kits though. ;) Whew. While I'll admit I have a slight June Cleaver complex...I don't think I could survive this let alone precisely cut up graham cracker shapes. You are awesome.

Jenn said...

I love your commentary, and yes, brave, very brave!! I'm not willing to risk this project with my 12 year old step daughter and husband while Isaac sleeps!

My Mercurial Nature said...

I think the keyword here is patience. Of which I'm lacking! :-/ LOL

Kristina P. said...

You all did a great job!! They are super cute.

Heather said...

That looks like a TON of work, but I love the end result!

Barbara said...

I agree, you are very brave! I bought a premade gingerbread house and even the thought of putting it together is giving me anxiety.

Sela Toki said...

So cute Helene. We have never made ginger bread houses but this is too tempting. I just might try it.

SherilinR said...

those are very cute! i've only got one kid, so it seems like a managable project to me. 4 seems a little insane, but i guess you can't very well leave some of them out of the sugary fun.

Charlene said...

I love these, but I agree you need tons and tons and tons of patience and booze (lots of it) to get through that project LOL! I'm not even sure I have that kind of patience...Good Lord, woman - the stuff we do for our kids, eh?

Thanks for linking up!!

Eva Gallant said...

Those are the moments they will cherish for a lifetime!

Rhiannon said...

um, so can i come over and we do shots... i mean make gingerbread houses?

Jenny said...

You get major cool mommy bonus points for making them from scratch! We just buy the kits on clearance after Christmas to use the following year!

LOL about "hardening". I giggled too when you said it.

Samantha said...

I never even thought about making our own with graham crackers! I bought a kit, and we built it on Thanksgiving. It was a pain in the butt. Bree almost had all of the candy eaten before we got it on the house.

irishtwinsmommababybook said...

Oh. My. Goodness. I think I laughed non stop about your paragraph about screaming in the pillow for five minutes straight. Tears and everything. You are hilarious but oh so right. I think we will do this next year. I just bought the gingerbread people from Trader Joes because the sprinkles get everywhere and drive me insane.

Rebecca @ Unexplained X2 said...

This is great and she totally could be on the Price is Right!

We tend to do our pre-fabbed gingerbread houses on Christmas Eve morning in our jammies...I set everything out and walk away. I can't get into it or I might really hurt someone!

Thanks for the survival tips.

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

You described it so well but I have to admit that when I saw the pictures, I didn't see stress or mess but cool creations, happy kids and yummy treats to eat. Me and the bonus kids are making a big one together. That should be an adventure as well but not as adventerous as yours. said...

You. Rock.

The Ginger Houses Look Amazing.

But it's more about the experience of making them that counts!


Kimberly said...

"I'm trying to bake facking memories dammit"
I think I say that a lot over the holidays.
We made a gingerbread house once from scratch.
Then we almost got divorced.
I think that gingerbread house building was not meant for the weak.
Just sayin

AudreyO said...

How fun. Most moms are not brave enough to try this. Although I do admit to one birthday party doing decorate your own cookies. We had more supplies than you can even imagine to stick on the many different icings. Ok...I admit I'm brave LOL.

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

You rock. I'd have been swearing by the time I cut the graham crackers. Let me frost cookies instead!

nantuckettiechic said...

The trick is to make the houses the day before. Then when your kids and their friends pile the candy on the roof it won't collapse...Although, there's always that one kid who breaks the roof so he can fill the house with m&m's. One of my six hung his gummy bear from the chimney with licorice lace. Good times. Thanks for the memories.

Nezzy said...

Now I don't know how the heck I missed this barrel of fun!!!

Your a brave woman sister! Heeehehehe!!!

The house turned out great sweetie!

God bless ya and have a fantastic day!

Pop over for my giveaway if ya get a chance. Stay awhile, kick your shoes off! The cider is simmerin' and the fudge is gooooood!!! :o)

Karen Peterson said...

Those are so cute! I'm glad you lived to blog about it!

Twins Squared said...

Wow! I'm very impressed! I have to admit, I hate doing gingerbread houses (as well as carving pumpkins) and yet my kids want to do one every year. I bet yours tasted way better than the stale store-bought kind but unfortunately that's as far as I'm willing to go. :)

I also noticed in one of the pictures how pretty Bella's teeth are! Mackenzie's look good so far but poor Kaitlyn. Even she said "I think I'm going to have to have braces." Why do they have to come in so funky?

Kathy Shea Mormino said...

I'd like to invite you to join me at the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week!

I hope to see you there!
Kathy Shea Mormino
The Chicken Chick

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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