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 in...to 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 thing...you 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 it...in 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 well...in 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" again...am 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, people...here 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.