Our gingerbread house inspiration? A Christmas without presents.
I’d been out of town for most of November and December. I’d looked over the girls’ school work from my mom’s hospital room 400 miles away, video chatting and texting with them throughout the school day when I could, and trying to keep the bare minimum necessities of life together, albeit by a long-distance shoe string, to the best of my limited ability. (Surviving times such as this–as well as enjoying the freedom to do the fun things, like make a 3-week, 3000-mile road trip across country in May–are a few of the many reasons I am very thankful that I have had the blessing of homeschooling my 4 daughters for almost 2 decades.)
Needless to say, I hadn’t planned for Christmas.
Aside from a few stocking stuffers I had picked up earlier that summer, the area under the tree would be bare. I was explaining this to a daughter–the one who lives in the fields all spring, summer, and fall and in the kitchen all winter. The one who always loves creating a new edible excitement. She said there was no need for Christmas morning to be uneventful and suggested we think about a gingerbread house inspiration.
Another daughter–engineer and designer–adopted the idea with enthusiastic precision, and a authentic-replica, edible reproduction of our homestead took shape on Christmas morning. Yes, our own homestead served as the perfect gingerbread house inspiration.
We Found a Good Recipe
We relied on great recipes for gingerbread and icing glue from a blogging friend of mine, Incidental Farm Girl. (She also offers free templates there, if you’d rather not engineer your own design.) Once we got the walls positioned with the icing glue, we mixed up a few batches of regular confectioners sugar icing to attach all the candies because we found the icing glue to be very thick, hard to work with, and almost impossible to pipe out of our icing bag.
Everyone Joined in on the Building Fun
Our creation was complete with a main farm house, a barn, and a carriage house to connect the two. Past the barn, stood our chicken coop, which also houses our ducks. Dad joined in on the fun and after separating the red fruit loops from the rest, “painted” our coop in tasty style. Since he had actually helped us paint our coop a few summers ago, we teased him that he’s a good painter, even with circles of cereal. And he thoroughly enjoyed the fine-motor-skills activity.
We Stayed Close to Home for Inspiration
We didn’t have a tiny chicken cookie cutter, so we were content to imagine the chicken were all foraging in the woods, which they love to do.
But the replica kept growing. As the day progressed, our gingerbread house inspiration just continued to grow. We added our lean-to to the barn and of course piled in some hay bales.
We had to add a garden.
We designed our little fenced-in swimming pool, complete with a Life Saver lifesaver.
And one daughter insisted we needed to add our outdoor shower.
Gingerbread Animals Cropped up Everywhere
We added other farm critters, including bunnies that had escaped the barn (with Dad running behind them).
And of course our farm wouldn’t be complete without Scout, our sweet dairy cow. (She even had an udder made of fruit chews.)
A few final touches of a lamppost and our newest family member, PapPap, walking to the mailbox with our loyal Bixby on his heels, and we were done.
But the memories will be treasured for a lifetime. Memories of the Christmas without presents. The Christmas that was filled not with wrapping paper and bows but with sweet family time.
We Enjoyed Sweet Details
If you’d like to copy any of our ideas for your own gingerbread homestead, here’s some of our “design secrets.”
For a garden plot–crush up Oreo cookies.
As a garden gate–stand mini pretzels upright with icing glue.
To create corn stalks–paint toothpicks green and attach yellow Nerd candy pieces with green-dyed icing.
To create family members’ and farm animals’ gingerbread replicas–use tinted icing, sprinkles, colored sugar, and Nerd candies to add personal details.
As a lamppost–layer wintergreen lifesavers with icing glue and top them with a square of mini graham cracker squares and icing. For the light, stick on yellow jelly bean halves.
For a lean-to–prop up a thin cardboard roof with chocolate-covered pretzels. Attach pink Canada mints for roofing material and fill the lean-to with fudge blocks for hay bales.
For an outdoor shower–slice a white jelly bean in half, glue it on the house and stick various lengths of blue-painted toothpicks out of the jelly bean for streams of water.
To create a log cabin “look”–slice chocolate covered pretzels into “logs.”
For a big barn door–slice black jelly beans in half to fill the space. (Or any flavor that’s your least favorite–which for our family happens to be the black licorice–that way you save your favorite flavor for eating. Which is, of course, almost as important as the construction.)
We Offered Each Other the Best Things We Could
I’m so thankful that amidst deep sadness, difficulties, months of seperation, and a Christmas without presents, we truly gave each other the best things we could have offered each other: our time and our deep appreciation of each other. As a result, sweetness–and Christ’s love–abounded.
Our Christmas had started with a beautiful Christmas Eve candlelight service that brought joyous leaps to my heart and sweet tiny tears to the edge of my eye.
And our Christmas–the first without a wife, mom, and NaNa whom we all adored–ended up being very sweet after all.
I hope this post finds you well and looking forward to a New Year. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas from our little neck of the woods. . .
I’ll leave it on this note. . . because the prophet Isaiah summed up my feelings pretty well, thousands of years ago: “He brings good news to the poor and binds up the brokenhearted,… He grants those who mourn a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, [and gingerbread joys instead of gift-less sadness,] the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61)
If you decide to make your own edible homestead, please share YOUR gingerbread house inspirations with me by commenting or sharing pictures below. I’d love to hear about it!
“He grants those who mourn. . . a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.” Isaiah 61:3
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