In our family, it just wouldn't be Christmas without gingerbread. Specifically, gingerbread houses. Even more specifically, scores of houses, whole developments of houses, covering every available surface in the house. We make them for neighbors, friends, teachers, every kid in the girl scout troop, in the preschool, in the class, etc.
Gingerbread planned communities take over our lives for the first few weeks of December, and I wouldn't have it any other way. My mother made gingerbread houses for all my little friends and classes and teachers through my childhood, and those are some of my most cherished memories. I couldn't not do it for my girls.
I knew from the moment I saw them that they'd influence and inspire the rest of my party design.
At our gingerbread parties, we always have tons of candy. Tons. I always buy way too much, because I like having a marvelous variety of candies for decorating. And quite a bit ofthecandy and icing ends up in mouths at our decorating parties, so there's no need for a dessert table. But as I was planning the beverage and savory food tables, I came up with a background idea so marvelous (I say humbly) that I had to make some extra desserts.
My table backdrops WERE dessert displays! I made layered styrofoam backdrops that looked like rolling, snow-covered hills. Then I baked and decorated sugar cookies to look like houses, trees, snowmen, etc., to create a snowy country scene.
I was inspired by folk art paintings of winter country scenes when creating the design for the cookie-display. I propped up the backdrops in front of the two windows in our kitchen, and hung red curtains (from the living room) on either side, so it would resemble looking out on a charming bucolic Christmas scene. Much more festive than looking out on our warm Phoenix backyard.
Hot beverages included homemade cocoa and mulled cider. I found styrofoam cups with lids--important with all the kids running around hyped up on sugar--and made my own custom cup cozies inspired by Frog Prince Paperie's designs. The cup cozies were a fun take-home gift from the party as well as nice custom decor.
My daughter loved that I made her shirt to match the cup cozy designs.
One of my favorite elements of this party were the "Mixie Sticks" I created. Think homemade Pixie Stix, but with flavor mix-ins to add to the cocoa.
I made cinnamon, espresso, and mint flavors. These were a huge hit with both kids and adults, and one little girl reported that the cinnamon was delicious in the mulled cider, too.
A simple turquoise punch was the perfect cold beverage for the kiddos, and for the adults, we servedpomegranate-lime white sangria (funChristmascolors!), wine (with FPP's amazing labels), and a selection of beers.
Just the right selection to make everyone merry!
This year I moved teh candy display to the kitchen island, so that kids could access it from all sides. It made that initial rush for the candy table a lot less chaotic and crowded this year.
The main attraction of the party was, of course, decorating the houses! We invite the same families year after year (just adding new ones as we make new friends), so some of these kids are experts by now! I adore seeing what new, creative things they come up with each Christmas. I've been doing this since I was an infant, and yet they never fail to surprise me with new ideas. I'm constantly learning from them!
As each family left, I had them pose for a photo with their magnificent creations. Do you recognize the backdrop from the Sugar Plum Fairy party
last year? And how about those Santa Beards
--look familiar from the Gnome birthday party
a couple months ago? The red curtains above? Not only from my living room but also used at the Egyptology party
! I love recycling party elements in new ways!
My littlest wasn't in much of a mood for taking pictures (for once! She's usually such a ham and begging for photos!), but I still love her forced pouty face.
I have to mention one more vendor: Modern Frills
. I'd already made the skirts for the girls, but hadn't figured out how to do the shirts yet, when I saw Modern Frills post the shirt my two year old is wearing for sale. It was the right size! It was the right color! It was the perfect design! It was MINE! It's just gorgeous, my daughter adores it, and here's something I didn't know about Modern Frills clothing: they clean up really well! My little one got it pretty spectacularly messy at one of our gingerbread parties, including some nice splotches of black food coloring. I thought we'd seen the last of the shirt, especially because I am not sophisticated about laundry. Toss it in, add some soap, wing it with the default settings and hope--that's about as good as my laundry skills ever got. But a little spray of stain treater and the shirt came out looking as good as new!
Happy holidays to everyone! I'll be back with tutorials--including the Mixie Sticks--on Monday after Christmas.
Thinking about making a real gingerbread house this year? Check out my new e-book with all of the recipes, tips, techniques you'll need, and five different gingerbread house templates: