Sunday, December 22, 2013

Graham Cracker House, Train, Castle, and Boat Patterns

I learned to do gingerbread houses this way from the kindergarten teachers.  I asked how two teachers could supervise so many houses at once with such small children.  They said the trick was to pre-cut the houses and "hot sugar" (see directions below) them together in advance, assembly line fashion, with two adults, no kids in sight!  The hot sugar has no dry time and is very stable, so it goes FAST.  Then at the party, each student gets their own bag of royal icing, a pre-made house, and a bowl of candy.  The original pattern is the first one listed here, it is the easiest to mass produce and a great size and shape.  Here is a post with lots of pictures of how they turn out.mother daughter "gingerbread" house party.

Now, about the other patterns, we used Keebler brand graham crackers which are scored this direction, some brands are scored a different direction, but it shouldn't matter at all.  I cut them very, very carefully with a steak knife (serrated).  If a piece breaks and you are short on crackers, you can glue it back together with burnt sugar (or perhaps royal icing.)  My castle door broke about six times, but it was fine in the end and can be covered with candy if it bothers you.  You can click on the photos to see full size photos.  Also remember when gluing/hot sugaring pieces together to put the right side of the graham crackers facing out, it looks better than having the back of the graham cracker showing.  (double click on images to see larger versions)

 This is the castle

Fishing boat

Train, note how candy inbetween the curved engine graham pieces fills out the train engine shape.

This was the "Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe"

Directions for houses: 

To assemble houses, use hot sugar.  Melt about 1 cup of white sugar in a frying pan on medium heat stirring constantly.  Then adjust heat to medium low.

Hot sugaring is dangerous, like hot glue, its very, very, very easy to get burned!

The points on the sloped cracker can be cut using scissors if you start cutting at the point, they aren't perfect, but it is fast.  A stake knife cuts the points really well too, but is slower.
Its nice to have two people when hot sugaring the houses together.  Then you can come up with a good system for assembling.  
(We dipped both ends of both side walls at the same time.  Then, we set them on the front wall while the second person attached the back wall.  Once the four side walls were connected, we dipped the top of the house in the sugar and then added the roof pieces.  

Royal Icing ( you can have several people each bring a batch of icing instead of making it all yourself)
3 egg whites
1 pkg powdered sugar (4 cups)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy in small bowl.  Slowly beat in confectioners' sugar until frosting stands in firm peaks and is stiff enough to hold a sharp line when cut through with knife. Keep bowl covered with damp paper towel while working to keep frosting from drying out.  Store leftover frosting in tightly covered container or ziploc in refrigerator up to three days.  
freezer bags work best for icing, regular bags tend to tear.

Plan about 3-4 houses per batch of icing.

Foil covered cardboard squares we used 7x11 my daughter's school asked them to bring 12x12 squares, whatever you like.  Cut cardboard with an exacto knife or ask each family to bring their own boards.

Suggested Candy:
mini m&m's
red hots
santas and snowmen candies
gum drops
tiny tarts
hat tamales
Mike and Ikes
chocolate chips
cold cereal
anything that makes good repeating patterns

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The White Stocking

Most of you have heard about a white stocking christmas tradition in one form or the other.   I recieved a story about it one year and liked the idea, but the poem was badly written and confusing (my friend didn't write it, so no offense intended there, it was a great thought.)  I sat down and thought it should go another way, in a few minutes I had written this poem.  I think it was inspired to help my family with a goal-setting tradition.  It has been ten years since I wrote this and we have nine years of wonderful gifts all still stuffed in the original white stocking (we took one crazy year off, because no one is perfect!)

The White Stocking
by Regina Slaugh

There were packages wrapped for the young and the old
Each stocking was filled and the Christmas story told.
Every child would be happy, no grown-ups were slighted,
Each soul was remembered and we were delighted.

But when the first rays of Christmas were dawning
The littlest child discovered the stocking.
Oh we were surprised, now where had in come from?
And where had it been when the others were hung?

While we were remembered with presents aplenty,
The little white stocking was hanging there empty.
In all of our efforts to love and remember,
Who had we missed for a gift this December?

Remember on Christmas we honor the birth
Of our Savior divine and his life on this earth?
Well this stocking so white with simple gold trim,
Started each of us thinking of giving to Him.

So then all at once we began to explain,
That surely this stocking had a meaning quite plain
We should include in our holiday giving
A gift to the Savior, the King of all Living.

Now each Christmas Eve we all gather together
And write down our gifts to Him on some paper
Next into the stocking our papers will go
Goals to help faith and obedience grow.

We try to remember the gift that we’ve given
And make it a part of our everyday living.
Then our gift to the Savior will last all year through,
Until next Christmas Eve, when we write something new.

“In conclusion, the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!”

Neal A. Maxwell, “Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1995
P.S. we have learned about making age appropriate "gifts" the adults usually choose a year long goal and the kids choose a goal that lasts as many weeks as they are old...