Gingerbread Kit – Beware

When my children were small, we used to make Christmas gingerbread houses out of graham crackers, clean meat trays and small milk cartons.  But in today’s world gingerbread kits are widely available for most holidays as “convenience products”.  My daughter loves gingerbread so the marketers definitely have her attention.  In fact this past Sunday as my husband and I watched the grandchildren (ages 5, 3 and almost 1) while their parents attended a training at church, there on the kitchen counter sat this box promising a creative masterpiece – the turkey kit that my daughter had provided for something to do after dinner and Grandma would help them.   I remember looking at the kit with a bit of concern because construction isn’t an area I’ve been gifted with.

So after dinner, my husband took the baby over to the carpet to watch and we broke the box open.  In front of me lay several gingerbread cookie pieces, some gummy type of candy, a package with a few m&m’s and a packet with the smallest round candy balls I’ve ever seen.  I was looking for the frosting, thinking there would be a can of ready made but instead there was a small bag of powdered sugar with these directions – whip an egg white until firm (what? are you kidding me), add sugar and a few drops of vinegar.   I needed to find the mixer and the beater, I needed to divide the candy in two bowls (already foreseeing the future of those little ball candies all over the place).  But there was no way I could tell two children looking expectedly at me that we weren’t going to make the turkey gingerbread.  

The mixer was found and two chairs were pulled up to the kitchen counter, safety instructions were given and my grandson became the power source of the Kitchen Aid Mixer while my granddaughter was in charge of the lever that locks the  machine down.  Two roles they were delighted to take on; this was happiness for them.  We talked about how important it is to start out slow when working with powdered sugar because it can go everywhere.  They were very good listeners and soon Caden was asking me if he could increase the speed to 4 miles an hour (the four on the speed control) and Maisie was ready to unlock/lock so we could scrap the sides of the bowl.

For me the day had already been filled with baking and decorating the baby’s birthday cake for later in the week; and I’d cleaned up several colors of frosting in pastry bags.  But the frosting we made for the turkey was similar to thick cement – I kept looking at the front of the package thinking how did they get the outlining of frosting around the pieces so the tiny ball candy could adhere to it.  If you’re a grandma and have been in a similar situation, I know you’ll understand how sometimes you miss essential pieces like the pastry bag – although I don’t think the frosting would have come out very easily – when managing a project with two little ones.  I found a butter knife and started loping frosting on the turkey cookie pieces only to discover those little candies just rolled off onto the floor.  Then my grandson’s elbow caught his bowl (yes, full of the little rolling devil candies and off they went on the floor.)  Caden glanced over for my reaction.  By this time, I laughed the laugh of a person knowing that this would soon be over.  The only thing left was for the limited gummy and m&m candy to be pushed into the unattractive gobs of icing I had sloped onto the turkey because what the children really wanted to do is eat the 12 pieces of candy the kit had allotted each of them.  While they pushed the candy into the drying cement frosting, I was still trying to figure out how to brace the bird so it would quit toppling over.

Finally the candy that was adhered  5 minutes before had been picked clean by the children’s hands and was sitting in their little tummies, sticky hands had been washed, teeth brushed and Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving was on the tv.  I gave my husband the option of getting the baby ready for bed which included a diaper change or cleaning up the turkey fiasco which had left the dining room and kitchen a disaster.  He chose cleaning up the destruction the now naked turkey had left; and I wrestled with a wiggly precious boy getting clothes off – pjs on.  While diaper changing I noticed Jesse pushing something back and forth with his tongue and discover a small piece of gray lego in his mouth.  I am able to remove this and look forward to sitting in a dark room in a comfy rocking chair feeding him a bottle.

In the dark, I am in awe of my daughter and son-in-law – how do they do it day in and day out?  I wonder how could a simple turkey gingerbread kit make me feel like I’ve been to battle and lost?  In a brief moment of self pity, I even think why would my daughter do this to me?

Soon all the children are asleep in their beds, their grandpa has headed home because he has an early bedtime; and I hear the garage door open.  My daughter sees the turkey on the counter without any adornment except the splotches of frosting that look more like a bad skin condition and asks how the project went; the turkey mocks me.   I told her from now on, I can’t do these type of projects with the children – it’s too much.  These people who design these kits can’t have tested them out with real children and tired grandmas.  No one in their right mind has you mixing up frosting with eggs – don’t get me started on the raw egg in edible frosting for children and those ball candies that are barely visible to the naked eye and then have the audacity to not stick to the frosting – there are no words.  

My daughter smiles at me and the turkey; then looks at the back of the box and explains when she has bought the kits in the past they always came with ready-made frosting and bigger sprinkles.  We laugh as Tamara begins breaking off pieces of the turkey cookie and saying how good it tastes. While her eyes glaze over from the gingerbread happiness, I repeat there will be no more gingerbread kits for this grandma.  A note to the wise – if you see this kit in the store or in your adult child’s home – run!


Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 - Pilgrims

I’m putting together my list for next Thursday and thought I’d share a few recipes I’ll be using.  The Overnight Rolls Recipe is from Trisha Yearwood  and I love it.  I’ll be making the dough and baking these this weekend, then place in the freezer until they are popped back  into the oven to warm up for Thanksgiving..  This is the easiest yeast roll recipe I’ve ever made and they taste like my Grandma Leona used to make.  I’ll also be making my pie crust dough this weekend, patting into discs and then wrapping in saran wrap and foil for the freezer.  These will go into the refrigerator to thaw a day before pie baking time.  In addition to our pumpkin pies, I’ll be making this Caramel Upside Down Cake which was tweaked from a 1940’s cookbook of my Grandma Bertha.

Menu:  Roasted Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Sweet Potato Casserole, Yeast Rolls, Butter, Cranberry Sauce, Caramel Upside Down Cake, Pumpkin Pie and Whipped Cream

Here is the schedule (I’m doing this more for me than you)

90% of grocery shopping is done

Turkey is in freezer defrosting

This weekend – Make yeast rolls and pie crusts for freezer, Set table

Monday – Last few shopping items

Tuesday – Pie crusts – freezer into refrigerator to thaw

Wednesday – Make pumpkin pies,  caramel upside down cake, whipping cream, and sweet potato casserole

Thursday – Take rolls out of freezer, Turkey goes into oven at 10 a.m., Make stuffing, Cook green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy cranberry sauce, butter and salt/pepper on the table.

Cooking is one way of expressing love to my family.  I pray you have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Apple Cake - finished
Caramel Upside Down Cake

Pie Crust - discs
Pie Crusts shaped in circles and wrapped for freezer.


With A Thankful Heart

As I was setting my Thanksgiving table this year I was gently reminded of all I have to be thankful for.  

Thanksgiving 2013 - Table Setting  
Table clothes OUT and Placemats IN – hey –  that’s how we roll now that grand babies are arriving.  The baby chair hooks on the end of the table and I wouldn’t want it any other way.  The joy children bring into a home leaves me speechless at times.  I like to set my table early – it’s decorative and helps me remember those that will be with us around the table and those that won’t.  The flower arrangement was a find several years ago at a thrift store  – brand spankin’ new and $4.99.

Thanksgiving 2014 - Place Setting

Over the years – I’ve gathered and been given.  The terra cotta plates were purchased for $1 a piece years ago, the top plate and silverware is from my Grandma Bertha and serve as a reminder of her love for me.  I’ve had this table now for close to 27 years and many celebrations have occurred around its perimeter – like me it is starting to show it’s age. 

Thanksgiving 2014 - Pilgrims

Oh the pilgrims – when my children were small I learned to use a scroll saw and did a few boutiques. One year the pilgrims were very popular. How blessed I was that my mom came to visit from California and helped me paint over 20 sets of these cuties. They are still one of my favorite items to bring out during this season.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!