Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Constructing a Complicated Gingerbread House

Teeje and I decided to be creative this year and make a really complicated gingerbread house. With the help of our friends Nelson and Amy, we were able to complete it just short of 2 weeks. YIKES. Long project! I did not anticipate it to be as complicated, arduous, and annoying as it ended up being. I wanted to give up 100 times. In the end, though, I'm really glad we stuck with it. :)

Here's Teeje helping with the "sharpening of the ax" stage. We took the template and constructed the whole house out of paper so we could better visualize how to piece it together with actual gingerbread. He said he had a lot of fun doing this. This stage alone took about 4 hours, but I think it really helped us in the long run. 

Teeje loves projects like this. I think it would be a dream come true for him to actually be able to work on a real house. I make fun of him when he watches "This Old House" on PBS because, to me, it's the world's most boring show. He LOVES it. I make him sit through "America's Test Kitchen", though, so I guess I better suck it up. 

Then came time to bake the gingerbread in the shape of the templates. This was a long process. The gingerbread recipe I used worked out quite well. It was nice and firm and sturdy enough to hold up to all the abuse I was about to put it through. :) 

I did the windows with melted chocolate. Teeje and I agreed it would be easier to do it that way rather than cut out holes in the gingerbread. We could then put fancy decorations on the windows after we were done. This stage (baking the gingerbread and doing the windows) took about 6 hours, not including the time it took to make and chill the gingerbread itself. 

I bought some ingredients from Walmart and Michael's for the decorations. I decided to use fondant for the siding because I thought it would make the house look really professional. I tinted it with blue gel food coloring and kneaded the fondant with powdered sugar until it was fully incorporated. 

We used candy canes for the porch posts and red hots for the tree ornaments. 

I laid the siding on each piece of gingerbread before putting the whole thing together. In fact, I decorated all the pieces before constructing the house. It was just easier that way.

Calvin was a great helper. He kept me cheerful when I got super frustrated (which was often). 

This was constructed after the fondant dried. I used plain white fondant for the window dressings.

The chimney was annoying to do. It drove me nuts because the bricks were SO CROOKED when I was trying to decorate it. In the end, I just stopped caring and figured it was better than nothing. :) I made a perfect gingerbread piece that would fit exactly in a spot where I had messed up, but then I dropped it down the chimney. It will be lost forever, unfortunately. I used canned corn to help support the walls as they dried and then forgot to take them out before putting the roof on. Haha! Oops. I guess we'll have to tear the house down the next time we want taco soup. :)

A dusting of powdered sugar gave a nice snowy effect. I used gingersnaps for the roof tiles. I had to trim a few of them to make them fit and figured the powdered sugar would help cover any big mistakes. Luckily, it did. The icicles I did with just plain royal icing. Amy was the genius behind helping me do the candy cane posts on the porch. There's no way I could have done that alone. She and Nelson took care of all the tree decorations - upside down ice cream cones with green frosting piped on. Don't they look great? 

The porch fence was so hard. It took 5 tries to finally get it to work. I piped the icing onto parchment paper in the design I wanted and then had to wait for it to dry before I attempted to peel it off. They kept breaking! I tried to be so careful, but to no avail. I finally baked the icing a little bit in the oven to make sure it was totally dry and that did the trick. 

Finished product! It was worth the effort.

The wreath was done with green and red icing using a star tip.

My crappy chimney. Haha. 

The porch roof had wreaths on it - again, just frosting and a star tip. 

I'm thinking we can make this a yearly Nicholes tradition! Maybe it won't be so complicated every year, but it sure makes our little apartment look more Christmasy. I don't think I'll ever throw it away because of all the work that went into it. It will just have to be a permanent part of our home from now on. :)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Grandma and Grandpa Come to Visit!

We had such a fun time when Grandma and Grandpa Nicholes came to visit us this past weekend. We played games, chatted, ate yummy food, and mostly just gushed over how cute little Calvin was.
Grandma offered to give Calvin a bath - something I wouldn't ever say no to! She loved spending quality time with her grandson. I think Calvin enjoyed having some new people to smile at and "talk" to. He soaked the attention right up!

After his bath came the lotion all over his poor dry skin. This climate is killer! 

 It was so fun to see everyone expressing their love for my little baby!
 His hair is so funny. He's almost completely bald on top, except for longer strands that come in at the bottom of his head. He looks like a monk or something. I really hope his hair grows in soon! Little baldie.

 The patented "Aunt Sue" hold for when Calvin started to get a little fussy.

 This is his "I'm tired!" face. His eyes get a little droopy and red and he starts to turn his face away from lights and people. Bedtime, mister!

 Doesn't he look sharp for church? :)
 Grandma and Grandpa gave Calvin a piggy bank so he could start saving up for his mission. I can already tell this kid will be a diligent saver.
Grandpa was feeling a little sick, so he had to bond with Calvin without holding him. No problem! We just put Calvin in his napper and he was happy as can be. I was so proud of how well-behaved this little guy was the whole weekend. He just was content and happy to feel all the love that surrounded him.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Lights at Temple Square

 One of my favorite traditions of all time is seeing the beautiful lights at Temple Square during the holidays. In fact, it was one of the many reasons I was so excited to move back to Salt Lake City when TJ got his job offer here. This year, it was extra special because I got to share this experience with my sweet son. There is such a wonderful spirit that exists at Temple Square, and that spirit gets even more magnified when the lights twinkle in the crisp Fall air.

We had to really bundle this guy up before leaving because it was pretty cold out. He looked SO CUTE in his little fur onesie and hat.

I really liked seeing these cute decorative bags light up over the lights that line the walkways. Each one was unique and Christmas themed. This one was my favorite.

I thought the lights that floated in the fountain around this manger scene were especially beautiful.

 Me and my Mr. Man! He loves being bundled close to me in this little carrier. I use it all the time while doing errands. He definitely prefers it over the carseat. It's so funny to me how he can fall asleep in that thing so easily, even though he's upright and his head is kind of bobbling back and forth. You'd think the carseat would be more comfortable, but nope. Not for this guy. :)

We are best buddies, me and Calvin. I can't wait for all the fun adventures we will be going on in the years to come. 

I wonder how long it takes them to decorate for the season. It's just so gorgeous every year! I'm really glad we are close by so we can enjoy it. Even though Calvin was asleep most of the time, I saw him wide-eyed and alert for a few minutes, soaking in the beauty of his surroundings. How exciting that we can make this a yearly tradition. In fact, the day we did this little activity coincided with the anniversary of the day TJ proposed to me at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle over 3 years ago. Look at us now! A master's degree, three jobs, and a baby later. I'm so glad I tricked him into marrying me :) It was the best decision I've ever made. I love my cute family!