When dawn broke, they started to wander about the forest, seeking a path, but all hope soon faded. They were well and truly lost. On they walked and walked, till suddenly they came upon a strange cottage in the middle of a glade.
“This is chocolate!” gasped Hansel as he broke a lump of plaster from the wall.
“And this is icing!” exclaimed Gretel, putting another piece of wall in her mouth. Starving but delighted, the children began to eat pieces of candy broken off the cottage.
“Isn’t this delicious?” said Gretel, with her mouth full. She had never tasted anything so nice.
Clearly Hansel and Gretel had never been to our home the day after Thanksgiving!
Dearest Boo, when you were in kindergarten we started a tradition that lasted until you went to high school. A story you enjoyed was “Hansel and Gretel”, so I had the brilliant (?) idea of making a gingerbread house. We had so much fun going to all the different stores in town looking for all kinds of candies to put on our “house”. You were able to invite one friend to help us decorate. The first year you invited Derrick. Derrick and his family were one of my most favorite of people we knew. His parents and I were church youth leaders until your senior year of high school. We chaperoned so many of your church trips/activities. You and I just loved this family.
One memory that pops instantly into my mind took place at Derrick’s graduation party. It is the memory of you and their uncle having a meatball eating contest. Child, I don’t think that there were any meatballs left for the rest of the guests to eat! The eating contest results carried over into the next day, as we flew to Tulsa to help look for an apartment for me to live in while I was working there for the next year. You were not a happy camper.
I am pretty sure if Norman Rockwell were to come back alive and wanted to paint the All American family he would pick that family. We were all such better people for knowing them and having them in our lives. LeAnne and Dave had the most perfect marriage; one that I so envied. I so miss her bright, shiny smile, her cheerful attitude and her willingness to serve our God. My wish is that some day you will find that kind of marriage.
Anyway, back to the gingerbread house. Before Derrick came over we baked the gingerbread house, made the frosting, and laid out all the candies. Once Derrick got there we set about to build the house. Try as best I could I could not get the house to stay together. I would frost the edges and hold them together until they would appear to be sticking together. Once I took away my hands the sides would all come tumbling down. Bless your hearts. We would all work together to hold up the house frame, thinking that it just needed more even pressure to be a bit more stable. Before you could say “huff and puff and blow your house down” that was exactly what happened. We just had a pile of gingerbread covered with a ton of frosting. I was beside myself, as I just could not disappoint the two of you. Both of you were so looking forward to decorating the house. What was a Mother to do??? Now, this is the point that Insanity became the Mother of my Invention. I ran to get my “silver bullet”, my never fail answer to everything wrong. I got my trusty hot glue gun! Yes, I know that it was a bit drastic, but I needed that gosh darn house to hold together. We had such a fun afternoon gluing and sticking on the candies. It was during the next year that I discovered the little fact that I was not supposed to use buttercream frosting; I needed to use Royal Icing. For the next ten years we used Royal Icing, I promise, and the houses/decorations were perfect. I had no worries or illusions about our first house. I never figured that anyone would eat it; we made it strictly for decoration.
We held our yearly party for families on New Year’s Eve. For us holidays were about family and as you grew older we wanted to you see that you did not have to drink to have a good time. Getting together with friends was not about the food and beverages you served. You don’t need alcohol to get high; you can get high on life by surrounding yourself with people that were dear to you. And we did have a wonderful time that year, too . That is until that year when two of the young girls came upstairs chewing on some peppermint sticks. My heart fell into my stomach as I realized that the only place that we had peppermint sticks was on the gingerbread house. The house that had candy hot glued to the surface. I raced over to the girls, ripped the candy from their little hands and flew down to the dinning room faster than a five year old Christmas morning! What an idiot I was to have the gingerbread house on the buffet table! Of course any normal person would assume that it was safe to eat. Who in their right mind would ever use glue to hold it together? I quickly scooped up the house and moved it to a safe spot. Kind of like being in the witness protection program. It looked the same, but it was in a place that no one could or would find it ever again.
Although I knew about Royal Icing and it’s power for gingerbread houses, I never tried it on cookies. Why my mind never made the connection will forever be one of the great mysteries of the world. This year I took the leap and used Royal Icing on my sugar cookies. For a first time I would say that I was pleasantly pleased with the results. Could they be better – of course. It is true, practice will make better. Check back for Valentine’s Day. Joy Rising!
Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 10-12 minutes
Oven temp: 350 degrees
- 3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 c sugar
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp pure almond extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside.
- Cream the sugar and butter in mixer; add egg and extracts mixing thoroughly.
- Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, scraping down the bowl to be sure everything is mixed together.
- Roll onto a lightly floured surface to desired thickness and cut into shapes.
- Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes.
- Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, and then transfer to a cooling rack.
- Frost cookies as desired with your favorite frosting (I used Royal Icing).